More than one-third of people living in parts of the Westcountry earn less than they need to cover the basic cost of living, new figures have revealed.
Figures released by the Cabinet Office and placed in the House of Commons Library show that 38% of employees in St Ives earn less than the so-called living wage.
Across the Tamar, in Torridge and West Devon 36.3% of employees earn below the threshold, which is set at £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour in the rest of the UK.
St Ives has the 14th highest number of people earning less than the living wage, and Torridge and West Devon the 21st highest, underlining how the region struggles with a low wage economy as a result of decades of collapse of traditional industries.
The living wage is based on the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living.
Because living costs vary in different parts of the country, there is a different rate for London and the rest of the UK.
By comparison, the national minimum wage is significantly lower. From October 1 this year, the national minimum wage is £6.31 an hour for adults and £5.03 for those aged 18 to 21.
In North Cornwall, 33.6% of employees earn below the living wage, while this affects 33.3 % of employees in South East Cornwall, 31.6% in St Austell and Newquay, 31.5% in Central Devon, 30.1% in Totnes, 29.7% in Newton Abbot, 28.4% in Camborne and Redruth and 28.4% in Torbay.
The figures relate to the percentage of employees whose hourly pay excluding overtime earn below the living wage.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband favours making a living wage commitment as part of his party’s manifesto for the next general election.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also said he supports the idea in principle but Business secretary Vince Cable warned late last year that its implementation could cost thousands of jobs.
“I can see the advantages of having a measure which individual employers can strive for if they are profitable employers, put it forward as an example of good practice,” he said. “I do, however, worry about the living wage becoming a policy tool which governments are expected to apply in part or in whole.
“If you have general application of the living wage at the kind of level that is being discussed it would have very considerable impacts on employment.”