Women in Multiple Low-paid Employment: Work, Care & Health

Photograph of a sign post in front of a blue sky with white clouds. The post has fours arrows on it. The first points to the left and says work. The second points to the write and says career. The third points to the left and says health and the fourth points right and says family.
  • Researchers at the University of Glasgow are looking to hear from women working multiple jobs.
  • Are you a woman with two or more jobs in the Glasgow area?
  • Do you have around 30 minutes to talk to a researcher about your work/home life?
  • You will receive a £20 shopping voucher for taking part.
  • If you’re interested in taking part in the project, please email Louise Lawson at louise.lawson@glasgow.ac.uk or text “YES” to 07946 292536.

An innovative research project based at the University of Glasgow is exploring the experiences of women who are in multiple low-paid employment (MLPE), and will examine the inter-relationships between women’s MLPE, care responsibilities and health and wellbeing. This timely project runs until January 2024 and provides the opportunity to explore this phenomenon and make recommendations to improve women’s working lives.

The focus on multiple low-paid jobs is a new angle from which to research women’s experience of employment and the subsequent challenges. We do not know precisely the proportion of working women who have multiple jobs: it is in the region of one in 20 employed women in the UK but there are issues is terms of measuring it. Some women work separate shifts, or have different contracts within the same organisation (cleaning work is a good example), so although they have two jobs it may only be counted as one. Whilst some women have two or more distinct jobs (e.g. care worker AND catering assistant), some second (third or fourth) jobs will be in the informal labour market so are not officially registered (say, cash-in-hand), or they may be in precarious or short-term or sporadic employment. As such this project will explore the various manifestations of MLPE and raise issues around their measurement.

Whilst having multiple jobs is a route out of poverty for men, for women the poverty rate does not fall with multiple jobs, and this project will also explore women’s interactions with and experiences of the social security system. However, the significance of MLPE in terms of financial wellbeing can interact with various other factors such as household and personal living costs, debt pay off, number of household occupants/family members, and the availability of additional income and support. The role of informal – or unpaid – caring responsibilities and its interaction with MLPE is an important aspect of this project. The role of caring has traditionally been performed by women, and ‘care’ is still administered by more women than men. This project includes any aspect of caring that woman identify as important and relevant to their lives. To date it includes childcare, caring for children with additional needs, kinship care, care for family members and/or friends/neighbours, within or outside the home. The project aims to understand how women manage and negotiate their care responsibilities in the context of MLPE, and the supports that are available (or not) and/or utilised. 

We are interested in how all these factors together impact women’s health and wellbeing – in positive and negative directions – including behavioural factors (eating habits, drug and alcohol use, exercise, sleep etc), the management of existing, newly diagnosed or chronic conditions, and managing mental health conditions.  We aim to identify the supports that are available and / or used within the family, at home, at work, in the community and further afield.

The project aims to raise the profile of this issue and make recommendations for employers and services supporting women in employment, particularly low-paid employment.  It will influence public policy and related services, locally and nationally in order to better support women with multiple low-paid jobs, address the causes and consequences of this, and benefit the health and wellbeing of women and their families.

Participation in this project will involve interviews with women who are in MLPE, with and without caring responsibilities, by their own definition. Interviews will take approximately 30-60 minutes and can take place by telephone, online by video call (e.g. zoom), or in person. We plan to interview 75 women before the end of 2022.

We recognize that the women in our study are likely to have very little time, but they are central to the project in sharing their experiences of MLPE, and are invited and will be supported to play a role in wider stakeholder and public engagement activities, should they choose to do so. In year three the project hopes to mount an exhibition at Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL), and we are currently working on an application to GWL to support our work and host the exhibition in 2023. GWL is the only Accredited Museum in the UK dedicated to women’s lives, histories, and achievements. 

Participants can have any level of involvement in this project from design, planning and delivery or just coming along to view the exhibits – for now we do not know its format as this will be determined by the women themselves, but envisage it could comprise photos, videos, stories and/or personal journeys from the women participants.

In addition to the planned exhibition and other traditional dissemination activities (e.g. project report and articles), the project plans a diverse range of communication activities.  These include a webinar (later this year), videography, podcasts, opinion pieces, and policy briefings. Women’s voices, and the women participants themselves, are central to our aims and all of our activities.

The project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation which has a goal to improve people’s lives through understanding how their welfare – their health, happiness and economic prosperity – is affected by different social and economic factors.  The Nuffield Foundation funds research to understand how people are differently affected depending on their class, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, and location.  Where people are disadvantaged, it aims to identify what policy changes might address that and how the risks people face can be mitigated.


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