Low pay, anxiety and our young women
A quarter of young people are at risk of poverty and one in five reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to figures released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
These figures came in the same week as data showing that stagnating wages and price increases are putting increasing pressure on young people’s budgets.
The Living Wage Foundation has reported that 27 per cent of working women in the UK earn less than the Living Wage – the two amounts calculated based on what employees and their families need to live on in London and in the rest of the UK.
And the Young Women’s Trust (YWT) has found that young women in particular are working in low-paid and insecure jobs, with many unable to afford food, transport and rent. Their physical and mental well-being is suffering as a result, with this new data showing that young women are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression.
The Young Women’s Trust has also found that one in five women under the age of 30 has been paid less than the legal minimum wage.
A Young Women’s Trust survey out last month showed that a staggering 27 per cent of young mothers have had to use a food bank because they cannot afford to buy food; 39 per cent of young women struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month; 25 per cent are in debt all of the time.
Young Women’s Trust is campaigning for fairer financial futures for women aged 16-30 who are at risk of being trapped in poverty. The Living Wage Foundation is working with employers to promote a fair wage for a fair day’s work.
The Office for National Statistics data on young people’s well-being showed that the proportion of young people living in households at risk of poverty increased from 19 per cent in 2008 to 25 per cent in 2015.
Seven per cent of young people reported that they find it difficult to get by financially between 2014 and 2015; and 21 per cent reported symptoms of anxiety and depression – an increase on the 18 per cent who said the same in 2009-2010.
The Young Women’s Trust commissioned Populus Data Solutions to undertake a survey of young people between 27 June and 13 July 2016. A representative sample of 4,014 18-30 year olds in Great Britain, from the Populus Live Online Panel, were surveyed.
The Young Women’s Trust survey found that:
51 per cent of young people are worried about their future, including 55 per cent of young women;
39 per cent of young women said they struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month and 25 per cent are in debt all of the time;
a quarter (23 per cent) of young women reported being paid less than the minimum wage;
a quarter of young people said they had to move back in with their parents because they could not afford rent;
33 per cent of young people said they were worried about their mental health (38 per cent of young women, 29 per cent of young men);
more than one in five of young people (22 per cent) said they felt depressed (22 per cent of young women, 21 per cent of young men) and this increased to 35 per cent for young people from the lowest socio-economic group DE; and
the main issues young people raised were low pay, job insecurity and housing.
Young mothers in particular are facing financial hardships.
Young Women’s Trust’s latest report, ‘What matters to young mums?’ – published on 23 March 2017 – found that:
27 per cent were currently using food banks or had used them in the past;
46 per cent regularly missed meals in order to provide for their children;
61 per cent were “only just managing financially”;
when asked about the financial situation in their household on a scale of one to five, with five being “extremely worried”, 23 per cent gave a ranking of four and 11 per cent gave a ranking of five; and
one in four had left a job because they couldn’t afford childcare.
Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said these figures showed that one in four young people was at risk of poverty.
“Young Women’s Trust research shows that young women in particular are getting trapped on low pay or in jobs that offer no security,” Easton continued.
“This is having a terrible impact on their well-being, creating high levels of anxiety and leaving many worried for the future.
“We must not ignore how many young women are unable to pay rent, falling into debt and turning to food banks.
“Much more needs to be done to improve young people’s prospects.
“This means paying a proper living wage that doesn’t discriminate against age, delivering on government commitments to improve housing options for young people and giving young people the skills and support they need to find jobs and become financially independent.
“This is not only about helping young people; it would benefit businesses and the economy too.”
And Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “We know that earning a real Living Wage is linked to better health and wellbeing.
“Yet 27 per cent of women – including young women between the ages of 18-25 – earn below the Living Wage, which can mean they’re struggling to get by at the end of the month.
“The good news is that over 3000 employers across the UK are signing up as accredited Living Wage employers to ensure that everyone who works for them, regardless of age, can earn a wage they can live on.”