Minimum Wage Workers Doubled

Twice as many workers are being paid the national minimum wage than when the statutory rate was introduced in 1999, according to research to mark an increase in the hourly figure.

The adult wage increases from £6.31 to £6.50 today, by 10p to £5.13 for 18 to 20-year-olds, by 7p to £3.79 for 16 to 17-year-olds and by 5p to £2.73 for apprentices.

The Resolution Foundation think-tank said 1.2 million workers are on the legal minimum, compared with 600,000 when it was introduced in 1999.

The number of employees earning within 5p of the hourly rate has reached its highest level, said the report.

The study also said an increasing number of workers are "stuck'' for long periods on the minimum wage, showing the importance of increasing its value as well as finding better ways of pay progression.

Matthew Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: "Over a million employees on the minimum wage will get a 3% pay rise today. For many this will be their first real pay rise in six years.

"The minimum wage used to always rise faster than inflation but the recession has blown it way off course. Today's minimum wage is no higher in real terms than it was almost a decade ago.

"Years of big increases in the minimum wage before the recession pulled the rate closer to median earnings and brought millions more workers within close proximity of the rate. The recent collapse in earnings looks to have accelerated this trend.

"The increased 'stickiness' of jobs on the minimum wage is a cause for concern, not least for those unable to escape very low pay. Tackling the growth and persistence of low pay is a key test of whether this will be a shared recovery.''

The think-tank said that if the minimum wage had continued on its pre-recession course, it would be set to reach £10.83 an hour by 2019.

Labour has pledged to increase the rate to £8 over the next five years.