Low-paid ‘falling behind on bills and skipping meals’ amid rising cost of living

Many workers say they regularly skip meals for financial reasons.

10 February 2022

The rising cost of living is hitting low-paid workers harder than the pandemic as many fall behind on household bills and regularly skip meals, according to a new report.

Research by the Living Wage Foundation found that almost one in five workers have taken out a pay-day loan to cover essentials in the past year.

A survey of 1,700 workers earning less than the voluntary Real Living Wage found that almost two in five have fallen behind on household bills and a similar number have regularly skipped meals for financial reasons.

Almost a third of respondents said they had not been able to keep their homes warm this winter.

Women were more likely to have fallen behind on household bills and to be skipping meals, said the foundation.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Our polling paints an unsettling picture for millions of people as rising living costs compound the challenges of two years of the pandemic.

“Almost two fifths of low-paid workers report having fallen behind on basic household bills, a third have had to skip meals and we’ve seen an increase in the use of pay-day loans, and all these trends have increased since 2020.

“There’s no better way for businesses to offer protection and reward for their staff than by joining over 9,000 Living Wage employers to ensure that everyone who works for them, including people that kept us going during the pandemic like cleaners and security guards, earn the real Living Wage.”

Dave Innes, head of economics at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commented: “Work should provide a route out of poverty, but a combination of low pay, too few hours and insecure work means that many low-paid workers are at risk of real hardship as the cost of living rises.

“It is deeply worrying that so many low-paid workers are already skipping meals and taking on debt.

“With inflation projected to hit 7% in April, it’s clear that people on low incomes, who spend a higher proportion of their income on essentials, are at the sharpest end of the crisis.”

The report said the rising cost of living was hitting workers harder than the impact of the pandemic.

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