78% of low-paid workers say cost-of-living crisis is the worst financial period they have ever faced

  • 78% of workers paid below the real Living Wage – 3.7m workers nationally – say the cost-of-living crisis is the worst financial period they have ever faced.
  • Over half (56%) of low-paid workers - 2.7m workers nationally – report using foodbanks over the last 12 months, with 63% of low-paid food bank users – 1.7m workers nationally - saying their use had increased in this time.
  • News comes a week before the Living Wage Foundation announces new Living Wage rates for 2022-23, which will reflect rising costs, on 22nd September.

Record high inflation combined with low wages is hitting Britain’s 4.8m low paid workers harder than anything they have faced before, including the Covid-19 pandemic, new research by the Living Wage Foundation reveals.

Polling of over 2,000 workers earning less than the real Living Wage, by the Living Wage Foundation and Survation, found 78% of low-paid workers say this is the worst financial period they have ever faced. The situation is so bad that over half (56%), an estimated 2.7 million workers, report using a foodbank in the last 12 months, with 63% of low-paid workers using foodbanks, an estimated 1.7 million people, saying their use had increased in this time.

The polling also reveals a rapid increase in hardship amongst Britain’s low-paid workers during the cost-of-living crisis (see Graph 1). Almost half of low-paid workers (42%), 2 million workers nationally, are now regularly skipping meals due to financial reasons, up ten percentage points since January 2022 alone. Nearly a third (32%), 1.5m workers nationally, report being unable to heat their homes due to financial reasons, up nine percentage points since January. Almost a quarter (24%), 1.2m workers nationally, had to take out a payday loan to cover essentials, up seven percentage points since January.

The news comes a week before the Living Wage Foundation announces new Living Wage rates for the year 2022-23, which will reflect increasing living costs.

Graph 1: Proportion of below Living Wage workers experiencing negative life situations as a result of low pay, UK, December 2020 - August 2022:

Graph showing the rates of hardship for low-paid workers over time


In a sign of how insufficient their pay is in meeting rapidly increasing living costs, over a quarter of low paid workers have no money left at the end of the week after paying for essentials. Nearly half have less than £10 left over, and two thirds have less than £20.

The increasingly dire financial situation facing low paid workers is also significantly impacting their quality of life. Over two thirds of low paid workers now report low pay negatively affecting their levels of anxiety and overall quality of life (both 69%, up from 43% and 42% in January respectively). The data suggests women are being more negatively affected by low pay than men, with 75% of low paid women reporting that low pay negatively affects their levels of anxiety, compared to 65% of low paid men. Similarly, 72% of low paid women said their overall quality of life is negatively impacted by low pay, compared to 66% of low paid men

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation said: “Everyone is feeling the pressure from soaring inflation, but our polling shows that low-paid workers are being hit harder than most with well over half using foodbanks in the last 12 months. These shocking findings bring to life what it’s like to be paid less than a real Living Wage during a cost-of-living-crisis. It’s more important than ever that those employers who can, step up and provide a wage based on the cost of living, joining over 11,000 Living Wage Employers across the UK.”

Fredlyne, a care worker, said: “I have such a passion for care work having come to it quite late in life after a career as a musician. It gives me a deep sense of fulfilment knowing that I’m promoting the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of people in our society who need assistance. But it’s demanding work and it’s hard to provide the level of care people deserve when you’re struggling to pay the bills and provide food for you and your family, with soaring living costs making it even harder. It feels like we’re drowning. Being paid a real Living Wage would mean I have less of those worries and can focus on doing the job I love.”

Life on low pay during a cost-of-living crisis

Read the report into life on low pay

Report cover -Life on low pay during a cost of living crisis

For more information and any further enquiries, please contact: Matt Ford: matt.ford@livingwage.org.uk / 07507 478967

Notes to Editors:

Data is Living Wage Foundation analysis of Survation polling. Data for August 2022 comes from a survey of 2,054 respondents aged 18+ who live in the UK and earn under the real Living Wage, carried out between 2nd-15th August 2022. Data for January 2022 comes from a survey of 1,702 respondents aged 18+, who live in the UK and earn under the real Living Wage carried out between 6th-18th January 2022. Data for December 2020 comes from a survey of 2,128 respondents aged 18+, who live in the UK and earn under the real Living Wage, carried out between 6th-18th December 2020.

What is the real Living Wage? 

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to what people need to make ends meet. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers that choose to take a stand, by ensuring their staff earn a wage that meets the costs and pressures they face in their everyday lives.  

The UK Living Wage is currently £9.90 per hour. There is a separate London Living Wage rate of £11.05 per hour to reflect the higher costs of transport, childcare and housing in the capital. These figures are calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission [LINK TO LW COMMISSION PAGE], based on the best available evidence on living standards in London and the UK. New Living Wage rates for 2022-23 are announced on 22nd September 2022.

The Living Wage Foundation is the organisation at the heart of the movement of businesses, organisations and individuals who campaign for the simple idea that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. The Living Wage Foundation receives guidance and advice from the Living Wage Advisory Council. The Foundation is supported by our principal partners: Aviva; Burberry; IKEA; Joseph Rowntree Foundation; KPMG; Linklaters; Nationwide; Nestle; Resolution Foundation; Oxfam; Trust for London; People’s Health Trust; and Queen Mary University of London.