Almost half of working people in deeply divided Britain are officially classed as low-earners, European Commission figures revealed today.
Just under 45 per cent of workers took home two-thirds or less of the national median hourly wage in 2010 according to newly released statistics.
That leaves levels of low pay in Britain an alarming 27 per cent above the EU average and even further above socially progressive EU states of Sweden, Denmark and Finland, which had the fewest low earners.
The statistics also showed shameful evidence that Britain has one of the widest gender pay gaps in the EU.
A staggering 28 per cent of women in work were low earners compared with just over 16 per cent of men.
TUC general-secretary designate Frances O'Grady told the Star: "These figures are hugely worrying especially at a time when the cost of living is rising and the government is slashing vital benefits for low-income workers.
She outlined how low wages are a huge problem for our economy. "People who earn less spend less which has a huge knock-on effect upon local businesses and regional growth."
She called on the government to "get to grips" with wage inequality that leaves those at the bottom struggling to make ends meet.
UK Feminista blamed the wide gender gap on "consistently undervalued" areas of work traditionally associated with women, such as caring and cleaning.
Spokeswoman Fiona Ranford also said the government's austerity measures across Europe will entrench women's economic equality.
"As vital public services are cut, it is women who will pick up the tab for the unmet caring needs, further restricting their opportunities for paid work," she added.
The statistics also revealed that education had a significant influence on how much people earned.
Under 12 per cent of people who received a high level of formal education were classified as low-earners.
That compares badly to the almost 35 per cent of low-earners who received a low level of formal education.
Workers in temporary fixed-term employment were also far more likely to be low-earners compared to those with permanent contracts.
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