| 26°C Belfast

Third of Northern Ireland workers earn less than £7.85-an-hour living wage


Concern: Patsy McGlone MLA

Concern: Patsy McGlone MLA

Concern: Patsy McGlone MLA

Almost a third of workers in Northern Ireland are earning less than the proposed 'living wage' - the highest level in the UK.

Northern Ireland currently has 29% of staff earning less than the Living Wage Foundation's proposed £7.85-an-hour pay.

That differs from the Government's own lower National Living Wage.

The National Living Wage will be £7.20-an-hour and is due to be introduced next April. It is due to hit £9 by 2020.

And it's the Causeway Coast and Glens area which has the highest level of jobs below that number, sitting at 40%.

Belfast comes out on top, with around one in five staff being paid less than the proposed wage.

And almost a quarter of jobs outside London were paid less than the living wage in 2014, while the proportion of low-paid roles has increasing over the past four years, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Weekly Business Digest

Margaret Canning’s selection of the must-read business stories straight to your inbox every Tuesday morning

This field is required

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone has said the figures "outline the extent" of Northern Ireland's "low wage economy".

"Figures published by the ONS show that the north has the highest proportion of employees receiving a salary that doesn't meet the basic living wage standard.

"Almost one in three jobs across the region are paid less than the living wage.

"Our goal must be to rebuild our economy, but to do so in a way that guarantees fair wages and a decent standard of living for all workers."

It comes after a survey by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce showed two-thirds of firms here are in support of paying the £7.20 National Living Wage, despite concerns among those in the hospitality and the services sector.

But while almost 80% of those businesses quizzed said they already paid the £7.20-an-hour wage, or more, 15% said they "could not afford to pay that rate".

And the chamber's chief executive Ann McGregor said many of its members "have concerns about the introduction of the National Living Wage".

"They have been given little time to prepare for its introduction in April 2016 and assess the impact on recruitment intentions.

"There are also concerns around the implications on the cost of doing business and the knock-on effects on international competitiveness."