One third of Enfield workers ‘not earning enough to live’

New data published today suggests Enfield has third-highest rate of low-paid jobs in the UK, reports James Cracknell

credit Christopher Bill via Unsplash

One third of jobs in Enfield pay less than what it costs to live in London, according to the Living Wage Foundation.

The charity’s research found that 33.4% of jobs in the borough – 27,000 positions – pay below £11.05 per hour, the current ‘real living wage‘ rate for London-based workers. This is a rate calculated annually based on “a social consensus of what people need for a decent standard of living and to participate fully in society”.

The Resolution Foundation’s real living wage rate is higher than the government’s own National Living Wage rate of £9.50, which is not deemed enough for people to live on. By this metric, Enfield has the second-highest number of low-paid workers in London and third-most in the UK, behind Bexley and Boston.

Enfield’s high ranking for low pay is just the latest indicator that the borough is set to be particularly hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis caused by soaring food and energy prices. Last month, Friends of the Earth research put Enfield among the five worst-hit local areas in England and Wales for rising energy bills, while back in 2020 research suggested that Enfield residents were the most financially insecure in the whole of the UK.

The Living Wage Foundation has also today (Friday) published the results of a national poll which found that more than half (56%) of low-paid workers – 2.7 million workers nationally – have reported using foodbanks over the past year. Of those low-paid workers who were already using foodbanks, 63% – an estimated 1.7 million people – said their use had increased during this time.

The situation is so bad that almost half of low-paid workers (42%) are now regularly skipping meals because of financial reasons, a rate up ten percentage points since January 2022 alone.

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Low pay was also found to affect workers’ quality of life and mental health. More than two-thirds of the workers surveyed reported that low pay negatively affects their levels of anxiety and overall quality of life (both 69%, up from 43% and 42% in January respectively). There was also a gender disparity; data suggests women are being more negatively affected by low pay than men, with 72% of low-paid women saying their overall quality of life is negatively impacted by low pay, compared with 66% of low-paid men.

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Nearly a third (32%) of low-paid workers report being unable to heat their homes, up nine percentage points since January, while almost a quarter (24%), have taken out a payday loan to cover essential spending, up seven percentage points since January.  

Nine of the 25 local authority areas with the highest levels of below living wage pay are in London. The Making London a Living Wage City project, launched by Citizens UK and Trust for London, aims to lift employees in the capital out of in-work poverty, putting £635m back into the pockets of low-paid workers over the next four years.

Despite the growth of the campaign, low pay remains a big issue, with 17.2% of jobs in London paying less than the real living wage – 700,000 jobs in total. Low pay is much more prevalent in some sectors than it is in others – in particular, wholesale, retail and hospitality. London also stands out as having the highest share of low-paid care workers.

Nicola, a Citizens UK leader from London, said: “The impact of low pay on workers in our communities reaches every corner of their lives. People are unable to afford the bare necessities, let alone unexpected costs like a trip to the dentist or new school shoes for their kids. It simply isn’t right.

“We need all employers to step up and do the right thing by paying their workers a real living wage. If workers are providing a hard day’s work, don’t they deserve a fair day’s pay?”

Anna Libera, a Citizens UK leader from London, said: “London was already an expensive city to live in, but the cost-of-living crisis has made getting by tougher than ever. The prices of everything from groceries to heating has continued to rise extortionately – bills keep going up, but salaries haven’t.”

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