One in five British workers are paid less than the living wage, a study has found.
Some 4.82 million UK workers receive less than the living wage, the rate of pay designed to enable workers to afford a basic standard of living, the KPMG research shows. The rate is currently £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 in the rest of the country, compared with the national minimum wage rate of £6.19 an hour.
At a time of economic hardship, lower paid workers are feeling the impact hardest, the accountancy firm said, with more than four in 10 (41%) saying that finances are worse now than they were just one month ago.
The living wage is a voluntary rate of pay that some employers give their staff and since 2001 it has positively impacted more than 10,000 employees and their families and redistributed over £96 million to some of the lowest paid workers in the UK, KPMG said.
But ahead of next week's Living Wage Week, the study showed a sizeable proportion of the country's workers are paid less than this rate.
Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people earning below the living wage (24%), followed by Wales at 23%. The lowest proportion of sub-living wage earners are in London and the South East, both at 16%. But by number of people rather than proportion, London (570,000), the North West (also 570,000) and the South East (530,000) are the most affected areas.
Workers in the hospitality industry are the worst affected, with 90% of bar staff paid lower than the living wage. More than four out of five waiters and waitresses (85%) were also paid less than the living wage.
Three quarters (75%) of kitchen and catering assistants, as well as launderers and dry cleaners, were paid less than the living wage, the study showed. Some 70% of cleaners and florists also received less than the living wage.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: "While the City continues to enjoy obscene bonuses, ordinary working people are struggling to get by as the Government's failed economic policies take their toil.
"The Government need to introduce an immediate increase in the minimum wage of one pound an hour as a step towards a living wage and to help boost the economy by putting money in people's pockets."