The UK’s Lowest Paid Jobs


According to research carried out by the Trade Union Congress, millions of  workers in Britain are paid less than the ‘living wage’ of £9.15 an hour (in London; however, it’s £7.85 elsewhere). In parts of Britain, according to the TUC, half of the jobs pay less than the minimum wage.   The report also reveals that for women, “the picture is even bleaker”: in several areas, women are disproportionately affected.

Also See: Employment Levels Rise While Wages Struggle

In my latest chapter of the Great Outrage wars, I reveal just how bad the situation is, with this list of the worst paid jobs in the UK, courtesy of data from the Office of National Statistics. Have a look at the table below to see which jobs make the list.

The UK’s Lowest-Paid Jobs Median Full-Time Annual Salaries

Waiters and waitresses


Bar staff 


Hairdressers and barbers 


Kitchen and catering assistants  13,396
Launderers, dry cleaners and pressers 


Retail cashiers and check-out operators 


Play workers 


Cleaners and domestics 


Nursery nurses and assistants 


Other elementary services occupations 


Data source:  Office of National Statistics, download Excel, Table 14.7a(ONS)

According to the ONS, “elementary occupations” such as bar and waiter/waitress staff and a range of “elementary administrative, service and construction services" have the greatest proportion of low paid workers.

The problem of low pay

A recent, separate and highly relevant study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that being in low paid work raises the probability of cycles of “worklessness” by roughly 10 per cent. Over a third of low-paid workers experience a period of no work over a four-year period, and being in a low-paid job is correlated with the risk of job loss.

The Foundation’s report highlights the very real concern that when many of the individuals without jobs who were formerly in low paid jobs go back into paid employment, it is usually to a similarly low paid job. The researchers describe this as a “low-pay, no-pay” cycle, and report that many find it hard to escape the low living standards to which it binds them, let alone “ advance in the world of work.”

Moreover, the report has revealed that:

  • Almost 25 percent (24.3) of low-paid workers cycle between employment, joblessness, and again into employment over a time span of  four years. With more than one in ten leaving employment and not returning to work.
  • Of those on that cycle, more than half stay on low pay, stuck in what the Foundation refers to as the “ low-pay, no-pay cycle.”
  • Assuming the figures do not change over the medium term, the Foundation expects: “more than 400,000 of those currently low paid to follow the same low-pay, no-pay trajectory over the next four years.”

Also See: How To Turn A Minimum Wage Job Into A Well Paying Career

Low pay is a major problem in the UK market that, thankfully, has moved to the forefront of political argument on employment and pay.

What ideas do you have for how British workers can move out of what the Rowntree Foundation aptly refers to as the ‘low-pay, no-pay cycle’?

I would  welcome your comments and thoughts below…



Joseph Rowntreee Website