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News: Three-quarters of care workers in England were paid less than the real Living Wage on the eve of the pandemic 

Written by Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation.

This Living Wage Week, we have been particularly focused on essential workers. New lockdown restrictions mean these workers are once again being asked to keep the economy going and look after others. All too often, this commitment is very poorly rewarded, with large numbers of key workers in insecure and low-paid work

Nowhere is this situation starker than in our social care sector. We’ve long known that the cocktail of rising demand and falling funding in social care has led to increasingly poor pay. New data published today shows quite how parlous this situation had become on the eve of the pandemic. 

Analysis by Skills for Care for the Living Wage Foundation shows that during 2019/20, nearly three-quarters (73%) of independent sector care workers in England were paid less than the real Living Wage (see below for further details on this data). As set out in the following table, the proportion of care workers paid below the Living Wage was higher still in London (where wages in care appear to fall particularly short of a higher real Living Wage due to higher living costs), and in the North of England. (A more detailed table covering every local authority in England can be downloaded at the link below.) 

Table: Overall care worker jobs, and care worker jobs paid below the real Living Wage, in the adult social care sector (independent sector only), by region: 2019/20 

Region 

Total jobs 

Jobs below Living Wage 

% jobs below Living Wage 

East Midlands 

80,404 

57,331 

71% 

Eastern 

94,685 

64,882 

69% 

London 

126,340 

113,263 

90% 

North East 

41,864 

34,398 

82% 

North West 

104,647 

81,879 

78% 

South East 

131,661 

70,472 

54% 

South West 

83,881 

54,690 

65% 

West Midlands 

91,810 

68,412 

75% 

Yorkshire and the Humber 

77,100 

58,841 

76% 

England 

832,393 

604,168 

73% 

Analysis by the Fawcett Society shows that eight-in-ten care workers are women, with BAME and migrant women over-represented the sector. Front-line care workers are also very likely to be parents or carers themselves – and three times more likely to be single parents than the workforce as a whole. They've put their health on the line caring for others during this pandemic, often while earning less than they need to look after their own families. 

We have clapped these workers and are proud of them, but that fact is not something Britain can be proud of. It’s time to rethink how government, public bodies and businesses work together to value the contribution of essential workers. A first step must be ensuring adequate funding so that all care work is rewarded with, at least, a real Living Wage. 

Notes on this analysis: 

This data comes from Skills for Care’s administrative workforce dataset, and focuses on those at the ‘care worker’ grade in the independent sector (i.e. it covers those working in private and third-sector organisations, and excludes the small minority of care workers directly employed by local authorities). In other words, this data drills down to the large, front-line social workforce where pay and conditions are the biggest challenge (it is for this, and other, reasons that the results are starker than those implied by official, economy-wide pay surveys). Finally, this data covers England only – sadly, no such granular data is available for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (although less-granular analysis suggests the pay challenge is less acute outside England, particularly in Scotland where the government has committed to a real Living Wage in social care). 

 

[Zip file data download for all local authorities in England] 

13th November 2020, 09:00
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