low paywages or salaries that are considered to be low relative to the average level of PAY or relative to needs. Official definitions tend to adopt the latter approach. Low pay is viewed as income that is insufficient to meet officially defined needs and hence can be supplemented by various state benefits (for example social security). Many argue, however, that poverty or impoverished lifestyle extends beyond the group able to claim such benefits, and therefore they prefer a relative definition. In the past the lowest decile of male earnings has been used as a yardstick, but increasingly in the UK the Council of Europe's ‘decency threshold’ of two-thirds of median-pay has been adopted as a definition by those concerned to combat low pay.
Low pay, however defined, tends to be concentrated amongst certain social groups and industries. It is concentrated amongst the female workforce, and is especially prevalent in certain service industries, such as hotel and catering and hairdressing, and in such primary industries as agriculture. Some recent reports have indicated that nearly half the UK's employed adult workforce is receiving pay that falls below the decency threshold.