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A million women fall into precarious work as their unemployment doubles since 2008

Half of women feel worse off than five years ago and one in eight low-paid women is on a zero-hours contract

Precarious work is a grim new reality for almost a million women, as new figures reveal the number of underemployed women has doubled since the financial crash.

According to a Fawcett Society study of 1,000 low-paid women — classed as those earning less that £7.44 an hour — six years of economic downturn and austerity have prompted a widening “inequality gap.”

One in eight low-paid women now say they are employed on an exploitative zero-hour contract and half feel they are worse off than five years ago.

The news follows the shocking revelation last week that the pay gap has increased for the first time in five years and now stands at 19.1 per cent.

A fifth of workers in low-paid roles had university degrees, which the society said was “shocking.” And an astonishing third described themselves as overqualified for their current jobs.

Fawcett Society deputy chief executive Eva Neitzert said: “We are concerned that at a time when the numbers of women on low pay are increasing, the value of their pay is declining in real terms, meaning they are struggling more than ever to makes ends meet.

“This is not only bad for individual women, it’s hugely damaging to the economy at large with talent simply going to waste.”

Labour shadow women and equalities minister Gloria de Piero said: “It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women. Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.”

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