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Waltham Forest third worst in UK for workers being paid ‘real living wage’

28.8% of workers in Waltham Forest are not paid a ‘real living wage’, behind only Haringey and Brent, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

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credit Sarah Agnew via Unsplash

Waltham Forest has been named the third-worst UK area for wages relative to the local cost of living, a new report has found.

The latest study by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) found that five London boroughs are the country’s top-ranking local authority areas in terms of the proportion of jobs which do not pay a ‘real living wage’.

The LWF says that its real living wage rates “are the only UK wage rate to be independently calculated on the cost of living”. Every year it publishes a new rate for workers outside London and a higher rate inside London, to reflect the capital’s heavier cost of living.

In a new report, the LWF revealed that the council area with the highest number of workers not paid a ‘real living wage’ was Haringey, where almost a third (32.7%) were earning less than one. It was followed by Brent (29.5%), Waltham Forest (28.8%), Bexley (28.5%) and Redbridge (28.2%).

Making up the rest of the top ten were, in order: Hyndburn in Lancashire, Harrow in London, Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, East Lindsey in Lincolnshire, and Thanet in Kent.

The real living wage is currently set at £13.15 per hour in London, and £12 outside London, with the LWF campaigning for employers to voluntarily pay their staff these rates as a minimum.

The government’s legally-binding minimum wage, which for those aged 23 and over they refer to as the ‘National Living Wage’, is £10.42 across the country. From April, the government is increasing it to £11.44 and reducing the age of eligibility to 21. Those not old enough for the National Living Wage receive a lower rate which the government calls the ‘national minimum wage’.

The LWF’s report found that across the country, 12.9% of employee jobs (3.7 million jobs) were paid below the real living wage in April 2023 – a small increase from 12.3% (3.5 million jobs) in April 2022. Despite that increase, this remains relatively low by historical standards, the report noted.

Looking at the proportion of workers receiving the real living wage in each region, London was slightly worse than the national average, with 13.3% of employees being paid less than the LWF’s rate.

The capital still performed better however than the North East (15.9%), the East Midlands (15.7%), Northern Ireland (15.6%), Yorkshire and the Humber (14.4%), the West Midlands (14.4%) and the North West (13.5%).


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The best performing regions were south-east England and Scotland, both with only 10.1% of workers not receiving the real living wage.

The report was produced as part of the Making London a Living Wage City project, led by the LWF in collaboration with Citizens UK.

The Revd Dr Simon Woodman, of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church and a Citizens UK leader, said of the findings: “All of us who live in London will know first-hand how the cost of living has risen in recent times, but those who also live with low pay are bearing the personal cost far more than others.

“It is a matter of shame that London, one of the world’s greatest cities, has the top five local authorities in the country with the highest proportion of low paid jobs: nearly a third of people in these areas are living on the edge of poverty.

“It’s time to change this, and employers can act decisively by leading the way in becoming accredited as Living Wage employers, as we work together towards making London a Living Wage City and banish the scourge of low pay to the pages of history.”

A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said: “It is vital that everybody is paid a decent wage – especially in the face of a cost of living crisis, increased rents and mortgages and rising energy bills, many of which been exacerbated by national Government decisions – which is why the mayor has always championed the London Living Wage.

“Last year, Sadiq announced a 10% increase in the London Living Wage, with more than 3,600 London employers now recognising the importance and benefits of paying hard working Londoners a fair wage – a figure that has risen six-fold since 2016.

“The London Living Wage is one of the most effective tools we have in stemming the rising tide of economic inequality and in-work poverty and it is vital that government increase support, especially for small and micro businesses.

“This research highlights that, despite all our progress, there is still more to do to ensure that all Londoners can benefit from our city’s prosperity. The mayor calls on all employers to make that commitment, as we work together to build a better and fairer London for everyone.”

A spokesperson at the Department for Business and Trade said: “Millions of low-paid workers across the country will benefit from the largest pay rise to the National Minimum Wage this April.

“We’re also boosting the National Living Wage to now include 21 and 22 year olds and increasing it to £11.44 an hour, helping to end hourly low pay.”


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