British workers are suffering the biggest fall in living standards since the Victorian era, as their austerity measures have continued to squeeze their incomes and leave many working in low-paid jobs, according to new research.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that more than 5 million people are currently working in low-paid jobs, earning less than £7.47 an hour, and one million of them are working in the public sector.
In a report titled "Raising the Benchmark", the nef concluded: “Workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.”
Public sector pay freezes and soaring living costs have left public sector workers £2,000 worse off than they were in 2010, with part-time hourly earnings worth as much as they were ten years ago.
The size of the public sector low pay problem is twice as high as previous estimates according to the NEF, as their analysis accounts for those working for outsourcing firms taking on public services.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, told the Huffington Post UK: "Not content with cutting public sector pay in the short term, this government is determined to hold down pay for many years to come. There is a clear economic case for ending low pay, as well as a moral one, and we believe this should not just include public sector workers but the increasing number of people now employed in the private sector on government contracts."
New Economics Foundation's Helen Kersley said: “Britain has a low pay problem. Our research finds low wages are having negative effects on the whole economy, and the public sector is doing less than it should be to raise standards of living."
Unison assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said: “The stereotype of overpaid public sector workers is not only damaging, but completely backward. Wages are being benchmarked against those in the worst parts of the private sector, rather than the other way round."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Our welfare reforms are designed to further increase work incentives and improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the [new benefits system] universal credit making three million households better off."