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Record numbers in work but pay lower than a decade ago

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Record numbers of people in the UK are in employment but real wages are still lower than 10 years ago, research from a leading think tank shows. 

There was a 2.1 million increase in the number of people working between 2008-09 and 2016-17, with the biggest contribution coming from lower income households, according to The Resolution Foundation.

But real average earnings are still £13 a week lower than they were a decade ago.

The think tank said employment has boosted living standards since the financial crisis, but “widespread insecurity has been a big setback with around 800,000 workers currently on zero- hours contracts.”

The research highlighted employment gaps, particularly for disadvantaged groups such as ethnic minorities, those with low-level qualifications, women, mothers and those with disabilities.

It said that the UK is still a long way from full employment, suggesting that the employment rate for ethnic minorities would need to rise by eight percentage points, nine percentage points for those with low qualifications and 10 percentage points for people with disabilities.

Policy action such as childcare support and working tax credits help to boost employment among single parents, but more is needed to help those with disabilities or ill-health, the Foundation said.

Stephen Clarke, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain has experienced a huge living standards slump but its incredible employment record has provided a much-needed bright spark amidst the gloom of the pay squeeze.

“But while employment is at a record high, Britain is still some way off full employment and too much work remains low paid and insecure. With fewer than half of people with a disability or ill-health currently in work, targeted support for these groups holds the key to achieving further employment progress.

“Steps to provide advance notice of shifts and a right to a regular contract for those working regular hours on a zero-hour contract would also help those in work who have precious little job security.”

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