One in eight (12%) employees have remained in low pay for more than a decade, according to research by the Resolution Foundation.
The think tank’s Escape Plan report, commissioned by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, used official data sets to track low paid workers over the course of the last decade in order to determine how far up the earnings ladder they climbed and the factors that helped or hindered their pay progression.
Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain has a long-standing low pay problem, with over a fifth of the workforce in poorly paid jobs.
“But the limited opportunities for escaping low pay is just as big a concern as it has huge consequences for people’s life chances.
“While relatively few workers are permanently trapped in low pay, just one in four are able to completely escape. More permanent escape routes are needed for the huge number of workers who move onto higher wages but fail to stay at that level.
The report also found that only a quarter (25%) of employees who were low paid a decade ago, and who have remained in employment for most of the subsequent decade, went on to move into higher pay.
The remaining percentage of employees have yo-yoed between better paid and poorly paid work.
Employee’s in high pay saw wages grow on average by 7.5% a year over the course of the decade.
Those unable to escape low pay saw their wages grow half as fast at 3.6% a year.
The report found that sales and hospitality-based jobs are barriers to pay progression.
Alakeson said: “Some groups clearly find it more of a challenge than others to rise up the pay ladder. Breaking down the barriers to promotion faced by disabled people, single parents, part-time and older workers is crucial to reducing the share of low pay across the workforce.
“We know that even in sectors dominated by low pay it is possible for staff, assisted by employers, to progress their career and earn more. But for this to happen we need more employers to take the issue seriously and have effective plans to promote pay progression.”
Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, added: “The majority of Britain’s poorest paid workers never escape the low pay trap. Too many simply cycle in and out of low paying jobs instead of being able to move up the pay ladder. Any sort of work is better than no work but being in a job does not guarantee a route out of poverty.
“This research provides compelling evidence for employers and government to do more on pay progression. It is a powerful argument for Britain to become a living wage country.”