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Thanet is Kent's living wage black spot but Swale is where most women are paid less than £7.45 an hour, says research by TUC

By Chris Price

More people in Thanet are paid less than the living wage than any other part of Kent but it is not the worst place for female earners, according to new research.

Some 27.2% of employees in the area covering Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs were paid less than £7.45 an hour, according to figures published by the TUC.

However, every local authority in the county had more women earning below the living wage than men – with the highest proportion earning below the threshold in Swale at 34.1%.

The minimum wage is going up. Picture: Thinkstock

This rose even higher when focussing solely on part-time jobs.

The figures indicate families are still struggling in Thanet despite falling unemployment in the last four consecutive months.

The area has long had Kent’s second highest number of claimants on Jobseeker’s Allowance, which stood at 3,467 in July.

However, Thanet’s number of sub-living wage employees was way off the highest percentage for the South East in the figures covering April 2013.

That honour went to Arun in West Sussex at 31.6%, although the outer London authorities of Bexley (34.4%) and Harrow (33.5%) were higher.

The percentage of people earning less than the living wage across Kent

Canterbury was Kent’s next black spot, with 25.2% of all employees earning below the living wage, which stands at £7.65 today. Next was Maidstone on 24.2%.

By contrast, the affluent areas of Sevenoaks (15.9%), Tonbridge and Malling (15.9%) and Tunbridge Wells (12.8%) had the lowest number of total employees earning below the threshold.

Other than these, most local authorities hovered just above the 20% mark, with Gravesham on 23.8%, Shepway on 23.2%, Dover on 23.1%, Swale on 21.8% and Ashford on 20.6%.

Medway, which has Kent’s longest dole queues, had the comparitively low figure of 18.5% of people earning below the living wage, followed by Dartford on 16.8%.

A number of fake £20 notes were passed to PTA volunteers

The study indicates that women fare far worse than men, with many local authorities’ data samples for men unreliable because the numbers earning below the living wage were so low.

The highest proportion of women earning below the threshold was in Swale at 34.1%, followed by Gravesham on 33.2% and Shepway on 32.1%.

TUC Regional Secretary for the South East of England Megan Dobney said: “This research blows a massive hole in the myth that all workers in the South East are well-off.

"In places like Kent and East and West Sussex, low paid work for women is a route into poverty rather than a route out of poverty..." - TUC's Megan Dobney

“In-work poverty is growing across the South East of England and it’s often women that are bearing the brunt of low pay.

“The Living Wage was created so that work can provide workers with a decent standard of living.

“But in places like Kent and East and West Sussex, low paid work for women is a route into poverty rather than a route out of poverty.

“Women would gain most from a greater take-up and implementation of the Living Wage by employers.

“Councils can lead the way by becoming Living Wage employers themselves. But they also need to work with local employers and unions to use the Living Wage to tackle in-work poverty throughout their area.”

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