In attempting to assess the extent of low pay a number of different thresholds are used rather than relating it to any single measure such as the standard set by the Council of Europe.
The ESRI in their research have used a number of thresholds based on the distribution of earnings and on a poverty standard. This research using 1987 survey data estimates that about 28 per cent of employees fell below a threshold of £130 per week and 17 per cent below a £100 per week threshold. The £130 threshold represented 65 per cent of average weekly earnings in June 1987. The data confirmed that women and young workers under 25 years of age were particularly affected by low pay. About half of the workers falling beneath each of the thresholds were under 25. Two thirds of those below the lower threshold and 62 per cent of those below the higher one were women.
Low pay is associated particularly with certain sectors of industry and services where categories of workers such as women, school-leavers, part-time workers and older workers predominate. Much of the low paid work tends to be unskilled, requiring few qualifications and with little prospect of promotion and subject to high rates of labour turnover.
As a consequence, measures to comprehensively tackle the problem must therefore cover a range of areas such as education, training, social benefits and taxation as well as the question of pay. A major contribution can also be made by increasing the level of job opportunities available. Policies to address these issues are already in place and will be given further consideration in the negotiations on a new programme for social and economic development.