Pay for women in multiple low-paid employment falls below the national average

Weekly pay for women in multiple low-paid employment is forty percent lower than it is for all working women, according to the first UK-wide study on women’s multiple low-paid employment, led by the University of Glasgow.

It also found that for almost half of women in multiple low-paid employment, the combined hourly pay rate across all their jobs falls below the National Minimum/Living Wage - a situation that is worsened by the rising cost of living.

’Women in Multiple Low-Paid Employment: Pathways Between Work, Care and Health’ examined the relationships between multiple low-paid employment (MLPE), caring responsibilities and health and wellbeing.

Key findings about women in MLPE include:
  • For almost half of women in multiple low-paid employment, the combined hourly pay rate across all their jobs falls below the National Minimum/Living Wage
  • Over 1 in 10 are in debt, with 1 in 20 in arrears in utility bills
  • Almost 1-in-5 women experience MLPE at some point over a decade
  • Half of women in MLPE have caring responsibilities
  • Almost half are educated to degree level

Jackie currently works three jobs and volunteered to participate in the study to raise awareness of her situation and that of others. She said: "I fear for the future, the public sector is in such danger. Every day there’s cuts and more cuts. I just think everything is getting transitory, the direction of travel is for everyone to be bank staff with no permanency. You don’t know what’s coming next.

"I work three jobs in a college, social care, and I make and sell stained glass decorations. I also care for my dad who is 95 and go to his house every Wednesday and weekends. My plan is to work till I drop and I know so many people, especially women, in the same position - you can’t really think of retiring."

An event at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by Michelle Thomson MSP, brought together politicians, policy makers, key stakeholders and women affected to discuss key findings and recommendations contained in the project’s Final Report.

Michelle Thomson MSP said: "This report sets out in detail the uniquely challenging circumstances too many women face today. Trying to juggle multiple roles and caring responsibilities impacts on women’s financial and mental health and does not allow for a clear route out of poverty.

"I shall be encouraging as many members of parliament as possible to attend the event - I know they will be as shocked by the report’s findings as I was."

Project lead Louise Lawson said: "During a time when the cost of living is higher than ever, it was important to shine a light on MLPE - which affects approximately 1 in 20 employed women in the UK, and is increasing in prevalence.

"I interviewed over 100 women over a two-year period and it was a privilege to access these stories. We saw women working in all types of employment, frequently working long hours and stretched days, managing family and caring responsibilities alongside their multiple jobs.

"Many women describe their multiple paid and unpaid roles as relentless. There is also evidence of women working multiple jobs and living with chronic health conditions, dealing with mental health issues and managing difficult life circumstances. Yet whilst having multiple jobs is a route out of poverty for men, for women, the poverty rate does not fall with multiple jobs. Women are managing, yet struggling, on low incomes but many do not feel protected by the social security system, and this is why some are taking on extra jobs.

"Although we recommend a series of policy measures, we conclude that MLPE is not a sustainable way of working for most women in terms of providing financial security and other long-term benefits."