ONE in eight people in Edinburgh is paid less than the living wage despite the Capital topping the Scottish league table for wages.
Research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre shows a total of 87.2 per cent of workers in the city earn the living wage or more – a higher proportion than anywhere else in Scotland.
But that still leaves 12.8 per cent who have to make do on less than the current living wage rate of £7.85 per hour.
Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “This is thousands of people having to exist on poverty pay, often with job insecurity and zero-hours contracts, which mean people don’t know whether they are going to get work or not. It has a huge impact on quality of life. We live in a prosperous country and we need to use every opportunity we can in the Scottish Parliament to extend the living wage.”
The idea of the living wage dates back to 2001 and is set each year to reflect the “minimum socially acceptable standard of living”.
The current rate for outside London is £7.85 an hour, £1.35 above the national minimum wage.
It is estimated that last year 427,000 people in Scotland were earning less than the living wage.
And latest Scottish Government statistics show 45 per cent of Scots living in poverty in Scotland – 370,000 people – are in households where at least one person is in work.
Since 2011 the Scottish Government’s pay policy has meant many public bodies now comply with the living wage and only 3.4 per cent of public sector employees in Scotland are now paid less than the living wage.
The sectors with the highest proportion of employees paid less than the living wage are accommodation and food service activities; wholesale and retail trade; car repairs; and admin and support services.
A debate on ending in-work poverty is due to take place at Holyrood tomorrow, sponsored by Green and independent MSPs.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “The figures may suggest that Edinburgh is a prosperous city but the reality for far too many people is that wages have stagnated and the jobs market has become insecure with serious problems of underemployment and zero hours contracts.
“We need to get the minimum wage up to a living wage and for that to rise to give people a decent standard of living.
“The fact that half of those in poverty are actually in work is shocking. When you hear the likes of George Osborne and Danny Alexander claiming there’s a recovery, you have to wonder what planet they are on.”
The research findings were published as separate figures showed over half a million people in Scotland were living in severe or extreme poverty in 2012-13.
Some 330,000 of these were working-age adults, 100,000 were children and 80,000 pensioners.
Severe poverty is defined as living with an income lower than £11,500, or 50 per cent of UK median income, while extreme poverty is defined as lower than £9200, or 40 per cent of UK median income.
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: “It’s a disgrace that so many people live in such severe or extreme poverty, but it’s an unfortunate and inevitable result of the UK government’s failed austerity agenda and welfare cuts that are slashing incomes for some of our poorest households.
“With employment increasing and unemployment down, Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK, yet the statistics show that a job is no longer any guarantee against severe or extreme poverty.”