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PARENTS are struggling to buy winter coats for their children thanks to low pay, a watchdog says today, as new stats show the largest rise in unemployment in almost five years.
There were 1.47 million people out of work in the quarter to December 2017, the Office for National Statistics said.
This is an increase of 46,000 on the previous quarter, putting unemployment at 4.4 per cent.
A separate study showed that low pay was having a "corrosive" impact on family life and workers’ health.
The Living Wage Foundation surveyed over 1,000 parents on less than the voluntary rate of £10.20 an hour in London and £8.75 elsewhere.
They found that one in four believed low pay negatively affected their relationship with their family and friends.
“Many parents are earning too little to provide their children with the basics, like a warm winter coat,” the foundation’s director Katherine Chapman said.
“What's worse is that they're also stuck in jobs that require them to work long anti-social hours away from their children and report feeling lonely. The stress this places on families is immense.”
The survey found that three-fifths of parents on poverty pay worried so much it damaged their day-to-day lives.
Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The rise in unemployment is further evidence of the Tories’ economic failure, which has resulted in regional inequalities, wages failing to keep up with prices and millions of workers trapped in low paid, insecure work.
“Eight million people in working households live in poverty and the number of children in poverty is set to soar to a record 5.2 million over the next five years.”
The rise is the biggest since early 2013, although unemployment is still lower than a year ago.
But over 900,000 workers remain on zero-hours contracts, in spite of a slight fall since the last check.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Nobody should have to rely on a zero-hours contract for their main job, but over 900,000 workers remain stuck in that situation.
“The Prime Minister missed a huge opportunity to ban unfair zero-hours contracts earlier this month. Her feeble response to the Taylor review means zero-hours workers will remain at the beck and call of bad bosses.”
The ONS said average weekly earnings for employees had fallen by 0.3 per cent in real terms on a year previous.
General union GMB said the figures had “kicked out the last legs propping up this government’s failed economic plan” and called for a change of strategy in the Chancellor’s spring budget.
“Pay is still being squeezed, people are struggling to pay the bills and the Tories appear more concerned with their internal squabbles than sorting that out,” GMB leader Tim Roache said.
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