You asked

I am making a Freedom of Information request about various statistics, I wonder if you could answer the following.

As of the latest figures (please indicate date of validity):

  1. What is the size of the UK workforce?

  2. How many people earn the minimum wage?

  3. How many people earn below the living wage?

The reason I ask for fairly basic information is because I have found conflicting pieces of info on the ONS website

For example, one page says that 1.3m people earn the NMW, which is 5.1% of the workforce. This would imply a workforce of 25.49m people. But the recent figures show that about 31m people are in work, which contradicts that earlier statistic

We said

  1. What is the size of the UK workforce?

    This depends on whether you are interested in the number of jobs, the number of employees or total employment. The 31 million figure you are quoting comes from ONS's Labour Force Survey (LFS) and is the total number of people in employment, which includes employees, the self-employed, unpaid family workers and government supported training and employment programmes. The latest published figure for total employment in the UK is 31.05 million in February-April 2015 (seasonally adjusted). Of this, 26.36 million were employees

    As people can hold more than one job, ONS also publishes estimates of the number of filled jobs in the economy. These estimates are mainly sourced from employer surveys. The latest published figure for the total number of workforce jobs in the UK is 33.67 million in March 2015 (seasonally adjusted). This figure is comprised of employee jobs, self-employment jobs, HM Forces jobs and government supported trainee jobs. The number of employee jobs in March 2015 was 29.12 million

    All the above figures can be found in the Labour Market Statistics June 2015 bulletin, which was published on 17 June 2015. The July bulletin will be published on 15 July 2015

  2. How many people earn the minimum wage?

    The figure of 1.3 million you are quoting was not published by the ONS. It is from the Low Pay Commission (LPC) National Minimum Wage (NMW) Report 2014. The LPC define a minimum wage job as one that paid up to five pence above the NMW. Using this definition they estimated that, in April 2013, around 5.1% of all jobs were minimum wage jobs, totalling 1.3 million jobs. The source of LPC's estimates is ONS's Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). ASHE is based on employee jobs only and excludes the self employed. So, even though LPC's estimate implies a total of 25.49 million in April 2013, it is important to note that this is employee jobs not people. At that time, the official estimate of employee jobs in the UK was 27.61 million. The reason that this is different to the total implied by LPC is that ASHE is weighted to the total number of first and second jobs from the LFS whereas, as stated above, the official estimate of employee jobs comes from employer surveys

    Here is a link to LPC's 2014 report (see page 22)

    Note that the LPC published their 2015 NMW report in March 2015

    In this report they estimated that, in April 2014, around 5.3% of all jobs were minimum wage jobs, totalling 1.4 million jobs (see page 32)

    ONS also publishes low pay estimates using ASHE, but we use a different definition to the LPC. We only consider jobs with earnings below the NMW. The latest published figures can be found in our Low Pay 2014 bulletin

    In this bulletin we estimated that there were 236 thousand jobs with pay less than the NMW held by employees aged 16 and over in April 2014, which constituted 0.9% of UK employee jobs

    Please note that estimates of numbers of employee jobs paid at the NMW are not produced from ASHE since the hourly rate used in the NMW calculation is derived by dividing weekly earnings for employees by the number of hours paid. Since the rate is a ratio between hours and earnings, the estimate of those working at a specific rate would be underestimated due to rounding issues in the calculation of the ratio. Therefore, it is the policy of ONS to not directly make estimates of the number or proportion of jobs at specific rates of pay

  3. How many people earn below the living wage?

    ASHE is, again, the best source for estimates of the number of employee jobs with earnings below the living wage. In April 2014 (the latest period for which ASHE estimates are available) the living wage rates suggested by the Living Wage Foundation were £8.80 for employees who worked in London and £7.65 for employees who worked outside London. At this time, ASHE shows that the proportion of employee jobs with hourly earnings (excluding overtime) less than the living wage in the UK was 21.7%

    Please note that the reason that a proportion is given here rather than a number is that for most types of analysis it is not appropriate to use ASHE to produce estimates of the number of jobs above or below specified thresholds. This is because of methodological reasons relating to weights and filters. The weights and filters that are applied to ASHE data are optimised to give the best possible estimates of average earnings. We know that using the ASHE data to estimate numbers of jobs would result in figures that were lower than the true value, but it is not possible to say by how much. The exception to this, as seen above, is for the NMW, for which weights and filters are designed specifically to estimate the number of jobs paid below the NMW

    I hope you find this helpful. If you have any further questions about ASHE please contact, and for questions about labour market statistics please contact