Low pay in Greater Manchester: A report for the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review

Published on Jobs, Skills and Pay

In this report, commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority as part of Greater Manchester’s Independent Prosperity Review, we provide an in-depth look at low pay in Greater Manchester (GM). We explore who is in GM’s low-paid workforce, the jobs they work in, their routes out of low pay, the dynamism of the local labour market and the role of employers.


  1. The risk of low pay in GM is particularly high for single parents and black employees. 33 per cent of black employees in GM are low paid, compared to 22 per cent in Birmingham and 21 per cent across Great Britain. And two-in-five single parents in work in GM are low paid, a figure that is higher than in any other city region and compares to 33 per cent for Great Britain as a whole.
  2. A small number of sectors and occupations account for most low-paid work in GM. Nearly half of low-paid employee jobs in GM are in just two sectors: retail and wholesale (27 per cent) and hospitality, tourism and sport (21 per cent). And in health and social care nearly one-in-five employees in GM is low paid, whereas the corresponding proportion nationally is just one-in-ten.
  3. As is the case across the country as a whole, a handful of large firms play an outsized role in GM’s low-pay labour market, raising questions around worker power. Just five employers account for 11 per cent of low-paid employee jobs in GM. Such tentative signs of firm dominance may be particularly concerning for worker bargaining and choice, given the fact that low-paid women in GM travel the shortest distance for work of women across different city regions.
  4. Routes out of low pay exist within sectors in GM, but switching to other sectors may be a better bet. For example, one-in-three initially-low-paid employees in GM was a sales assistant or a cleaner a decade later, compared to just 13 per cent of those who had moved onto higher pay.