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Supporting low-skill, low-pay women to progress: a new global research programme

  • Blog
  • 21st Feb 2022

As living costs are set to soar this year with gas prices increasing across Europe, analysis suggests this could be devastating for people in low income households. Single-parent families – the majority of which consist of single women raising children – are more likely to live in poverty, and face further risks as a result.

This is true in France, where 35% single-parent families live in poverty, the UK, where 41% of single-parent families working part-time  live in poverty, and in Spain, where more than half of single mothers suffer from poverty, and could not cope with monthly payments for gas and electricity, even before the current crisis.

What’s striking is that many of these families experience in-work poverty:  poverty when employed, as a result of lower earnings, reduced hours, and insecure work. Nearly 10% of workers in Europe are considered to be at risk of in-work poverty, and in South Africa, this increases to 20% of workers – with low-wage workers more likely to be women.

Meanwhile, in Spain, spiraling energy costs are of particular concern, given its economy was hit harder than any other EU country in 2020.

Today the Behavioural Insights Team is launching a global research programme with the support of JPMorgan Chase to improve access to higher quality work for women in low-skill and low-paid jobs.

This programme is the first of its kind to examine and build solutions for the particular barriers faced by low-paid women, across the UK, France, Spain and South Africa. We are looking for interested partners to get involved – particularly affected women, large employers, training providers, policymakers, academics and charities.

Email us to get involved

Women disproportionately work in low-skill, low-paid jobs, which contributes to gender inequality. For example, in the UK 21% of women are in low-paid work, compared with just 14% of men – the contrast is even bigger in France (25% women v 15% men), and South Africa, (35.5% women v 24.1% of men).

With low-paid work comes insecurity, making budgeting and planning difficult. In South Africa, the low-paid poor, who are more likely to be women, are also highly likely to be involved in the informal sector, which is itself associated with a lack of job security and benefits. In Spain women are 10% more likely to hold temporary contracts. When comparing mothers to fathers, this increases to 25%. Due to this insecurity, low-skill occupations are associated with lower employment retention rates

An overrepresentation of women in temporary contracts also affects progression opportunities. In France, women are more likely to work in temporary roles and this is associated with women being less likely to upskill themselves than men, making progression more difficult. 

Supporting women to progress – to high quality work – is critical to enabling women’s professional and personal fulfilment, as well as increasing equality in society more broadly. 

A new global research project

There is currently very little evidence around what works to support women with in-work progression. That’s why we’re delighted to announce the launch of a major new programme of work with the support of JPMorgan Chase.. 

BIT will be conducting research in the UK, France, Spain and South Africa, to investigate common and country-specific behavioural barriers to female progression in low-paid jobs. This will include a review of literature, a large-scale survey of low-skill low-paid women, and interviews with women and other individuals and groups with insights into the challenge.

Based on what we find, we’ll work with partners and low-skill low-paid women to design and, hopefully evaluate, a range of behavioural change solutions that could aid women’s professional development and progression.

For an idea of what these solutions might look like – consider some of our previous findings from our work in  the equalities and employment space:

Want to contribute to this research?

We always strive to deliver real social impact. Part of that is making sure we partner with individuals and organisations who are well-placed to deliver successful interventions, as well as grounding our work in real-world contexts. 

For this project, we’re looking to collaborate with some of the following partners:

  • Employers and recruiters: Would you be willing to design and test new interventions to support low-skill, low-paid women? For instance, trialing changes to your recruitment or progression processes?
  • Academics and research organisations: Have you conducted research in this area before, which we can review and build on?
  • Policy professionals: Do you have particular knowledge of the labour market dynamics in the UK, Spain, France or South Africa?
  • Charities and women’s groups: Do you have an understanding of the main barriers faced by low-skill low-paid women? 

If you’re interested in this research, let us know! We’re looking to partner with people across the project – whether that’s interviewing experts and low-skill, low-paid women, inviting partners to workshops to develop solutions, or simply disseminating our results as we progress. For more information, get in touch with us

Email us to get involved