The proportion of low-paid employee jobs, based on hourly pay, fell to just 14 per cent in 2021 – the lowest since the series began in 1997.

According to new research released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of low-paid jobs has fallen substantially over 2021, falling to 14.2 per cent.

During the same period, the proportion of high-paid employees also fell though this was a marginal drop, decreasing by only 0.7 per cent to 25.4 per cent.

The research found that part-time, younger workers aged between 16 and 21 working within elementary occupations or in the accommodation and food service industry were traditionally the lowest-earning.

Over half of people within this age bracket (59 per cent) were found to be low-earners whilst close to two-thirds (63 per cent) of people working within accommodation and food also fell within this range.

Largely, pay increased for most workers in 2021, but particularly those that were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 including younger employees, men and the lowest-paid occupations.

Analysing disparities between male and female pay, women were significantly more likely to be low paid than men (17.1 per cent versus 11.3 per cent).

The opposite was also true with men being much more likely to be high-paid than women (29.0 per cent versus 20.0 per cent).

Additionally, the gender pay gap among full-time employees has widened in 2021, rising back to 7.9 per cent from 7.0 per cent in 2020. However, the numbers are still down compared to pre-pandemic figures when the gap stood at 9 per cent.

In April 2021, over a million employee jobs (1,084,000) with employees aged 16 years and over were paid below the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW) (3.8 per cent of employee jobs).

Comparing this to statistics from previous years, 2,085,000 jobs were paid below the NMW or NLW (7.4 per cent) in 2020 and close to half a million (409,000) (1.4 per cent of employee jobs) fared the same in 2019, highlighting the impact of the pandemic.

This comes as Chancellor Sunak is expected to announce a rise in the National Living Wage in today’s Autumn Statement, equating to a 6.6 per cent increase compared to current figures.

However, General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’ Grady, stated:

We need a proper plan from the Chancellor to get pay rising across the economy.

That means a pay rise for all public sector workers that at least matches the cost of living. If Rishi Sunak does not increase department budgets the pay freeze will be over in name only.

And ministers should strengthen rights for workers to bargain for higher pay through their unions, and immediately increase the NMW to £10 an hour.


*This research was obtained from the Office for National Statistics’ ‘Low and High Pay in the UK: 2021’ which analysed data from April 2021.