Almost a million more women have moved into low paid, insecure jobs since the recession which is fuelling a widening “inequality gap”, according to a new report.
The Fawcett Society said that since 2008, female under-employment has nearly doubled, to 789,000, and an additional 371,000 women have moved into self-employment, which is typically very low paid.
One in eight low paid women now describe themselves as on a zero hours contract, said the campaign group.
Its survey of 1,000 low paid women found that almost half felt worse off than five years ago and nearly one in 10 had taken out a loan from a pay day lender in the past year.
The Fawcett Society said increasing levels of women in low paid work, along with the declining value of low pay, was contributing to a widening inequality gap between women and men, pointing out that last year the gender pay gap increased for the first time in five years and now stands at 19.1% for all employees.
A high number of low paid women are working significantly below their skill or qualification level, said the report, with over a fifth of those polled educated to degree level, while over a third described themselves as overqualified and over-skilled for their current job.
Dr Eva Neitzert, deputy chief executive at the Fawcett Society, said: “The evidence is clear, after five years of decline, the UK economy is back on the upswing. Employment is up, unemployment is down and GDP is improving. However, as our research shows, low paid women are being firmly shut out of the recovery.
“The numbers of women in low paid, insecure work are still alarmingly high. Since the crisis in 2008 we have seen a nearly two-fold increase in the numbers of women working in insecure, part-time and temporary jobs where they would prefer to be in secure, full-time roles. In addition, 371,000 more women have moved into self-employment – a form of work which is typically very low paid and where women earn an average of 40 per cent less than men.
“Since 2008 almost a million extra women have moved into types of work that are typically low paid and insecure.
“We are concerned that at a time when the numbers of women on low pay are increasing, the value of their pay is declining in real terms, meaning they are struggling more than ever to makes ends meet. Even the planned increase to the national minimum wage this October will only increase the value of the wage to 2005 levels in real terms. It is clear that work is not providing a sufficient route out of poverty for low paid women.”
Dr Neitzert said it was “shocking” that over one in five women earning less than £7.44 per hour are educated to degree level, adding that low paid women were seeing their position deteriorate despite the economic recovery.
“This is not only bad for individual women, it’s hugely damaging to the economy at large with talent simply going to waste.”
Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan said: “We’re committed to delivering a long term economic plan that works for women. That’s why we are giving employees the right to request flexible working as well as introducing shared parental leave, and introducing tax free childcare – also available for eligible parents who are self-employed.
“We have increased free childcare to 15 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds, and are extending this to the most disadvantaged 40% of two-year-olds. Women can now make the right choice for them on how to balance work and families.
“As a result we’re seeing more women in full time work than ever before and although the gender pay gap remains too high, it is narrowing and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero. In 2012, 20% of SMEs were either run solely or mostly by women.
“I’m pleased that every FTSE 100 board now includes a woman and more businesses are recognising the skills and experience that diversity brings to a workplace.”
Gloria De Piero, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women.
“Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.
“Only a Labour government is committed to tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage, providing incentives for employers to pay the living wage and delivering on the promise of equal pay for women and their families across the country.”