Austerity and the Living Wage: the Case of Care Workers in England

PROWSE, Peter, PROWSE, Julie and SNOOK, Jereme (2017). Austerity and the Living Wage: the Case of Care Workers in England. In: International Labour Process Conference, Sheffield University, Sheffield University, Sheffield, 4-6 April 2017. (Unpublished)

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Between 1985 to 2014 the number of people aged 85 and above doubled from nearly 700,000 to 1.5 million (Keynote, 2015). While from 2015 to 2020 the population aged over 65 will grow by 12% (1.1 million). The majority of care is now delivered by a range of private companies and providers, whose workforce are mainly care workers paid on the national minimum wage (Grant Thornton, 2014). An analysis of this sector indicates this workforce is projected to increase (Gardiner and Hussein, 2015). This paper presents findings that examine care workers' experiences of work and pay in the care sector. The Low Pay Commission expressed concern that Government reductions in Local Authority funding would affect paying the national minimum wage (Low Pay Commission, 2015:216). It is estimated that an increase in the national minimum wage would affect 275,000 care workers and require additional funding of between £753 million to £1 billion (UKHCA, 2015). An additional factor is the higher impact of the recession and austerity on women, especially in the female dominated care sector (TUC, 2015). Methodology This paper presents in-depth interviews conducted with employers, union representatives from one union and care workers and explores three areas. First, care workers' roles and work, second, issues of pay and conditions, and finally, the challenges of low pay in the care sector. Findings The findings show that care workers now undertake a wider range of tasks and roles and these are expanding. Many care workers describe enjoying aspects of their work, but felt low paid, insecure in their job and unable to change anything. Employers recognise the need to pay higher wages and provide better working conditions, but argue austerity constraints limits what they can pay. However, employers acknowledge a shortage of care workers and instability in the sector is challenging this position (Gardiner, 2016). Union representatives concurred that care workers' roles are expanding; however this additional responsibility was not reflected in their pay or conditions. The union is campaigning and targeting the care sector to raise the issue of the living wage and recruit members. These findings have implications for employers, unions and care workers for pay determination in the care sector. At the same time, attempting to balance these issues with austerity measures is challenging the provision of care, undermining care workers' pay and conditions and potentially destabilising the care sector. References Gardiner, L. (2016) Rising to the Challenge: Early Evidence on the Introduction of the National Living Wage in the Social Care Sector, Resolution Foundation. Gardiner, L. and Hussein, S. (2015) As if we cared: The costs and benefits of the living wage for social care workers, Resolution Foundation. Grant Thornton (2014) Residential Elderly Care: UK sector review. London: Grant Thornton. Keynote (2016) Residential Nursing Care Activities, Keynote Market Digest. Low Pay Commission (2015) National Minimum Wage: The Low Pay Commission Report 2105, March 2015, Cm 9017, HMSO. TUC (2015).The Impact on Women of Recession and Austerity. Trades Union Congress. United Kingdom Health Care Association (UKHCA) National living wage in the Homecare sector.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Business School > Department of Management
Depositing User: Peter Prowse
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2017 12:44
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 16:19

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