For many years now government welfare policy has focused on getting lower-skilled people into work, rather than on how to support low-paid people to raise their incomes in work. This report, produced in a collaboration between the CIPD and John Lewis Partnership, aims to uncover the experiences of employees on the lowest rates of pay and understand the contributing factors for an individual becoming ‘stuck’ on low pay.


Tooley Street Research conducted the research and wrote the report. The research was in two parts: quantitative analysis to find out about the household characteristics and attitudes of low-paid workers and what determines their ability over time to earn higher pay rates; and focus groups with people who had been earning at, or up to 20% above, the minimum wage in recent years, to explore the barriers they face, ideas for overcoming them, and what these workers want from their working lives. The report draws out implications from the research for government and employers.

The research found that 64% of those on low pay are women. There is also a strong correlation between age and being stuck on low pay, with the chances of escaping low pay becoming less likely the older you become.

‘Politicians concerned about the cost of living talk about the need to raise the minimum wage, while ignoring the fact that even a large rise in the statutory minimum will not alter the socio-economic position in society of those who are paid it.’

Content of the report

  • Forewords
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • What we already know
  • The research questions and methodology
  • Understanding the lowest paid: data analysis
  • Understanding the lowest paid: focus groups
  • Implications for government and employers
  • Appendix 1: Detailed methodology of the data analysis
  • Appendix 2: Discussion guide for focus groups

Download the report below.

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