Some UK frontliners earn less than non-essential workers

Food workers comprise 71% of essential workers who earn less than £10 an hour

Some UK frontliners earn less than non-essential workers

Essential workers who have become the lifeline of the economy in the COVID-19 pandemic are earning about US$1.25 an hour less than most workers, according to a new study.

With most businesses slowing down and others shuttering, workers in sectors such as food and social care are continuing to serve communities and proving vital to response efforts against the coronavirus outbreak. The two sectors employ about 1.6 million in total.

READ MORE: COVID-19: How the world is caring for frontline workers

Yet the median hourly wage of these essential workers is only £12.26 (approx. US$15) in today’s prices. By comparison, the median hourly wage of non-essential workers is £13.26, based on 2019 data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Food workers comprise 71% of essential workers who earn less than £10 an hour. They make £8.59 an hour on average, which is less than the real Living Wage of £9.30 across the UK.

Low-income essential workers are also likely to be female, the study noted.

“Any policy plans to change key workers’ working conditions after the pandemic has passed will need to take these differences into account,” said Christine Farquharson, senior research economist at the IFS.

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On the other hand, in non-essential sectors, low-income earners are seven times more likely to be financially crippled by the pandemic. One in three people who belong in the bottom 10% of income earners worked in a non-essential business prior to the crisis.

Women are also more vulnerable to economic shock than men. One in six women worked in sectors such as hospitality and retail, which have been severely affected by the lockdown, the IFS said.

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