ALMOST a quarter of working people in St Helens earn less than the living wage according to the latest set of figures.

According to the TUC on average one in five jobs nationally pays below the living wage which is currently set at £7.65 per hour.

This is the amount a person is said to need to earn to cover the basic cost of living.

The figures, which have been broken down into constituencies, show that 26.2 per cent of people in St Helens North and 23.2 per cent in St Helens South earn less than the living wage.

For part-time workers the figure increases to 49.5 per cent in the north of the town and 48.6 in the south.

Neighbouring towns don’t fare much better, with Wigan registering 23.1 per cent of all employees below the necessary level and Warrington on 19.9 per cent.

The TUC says that across the country five million people are paid less than the living wage, including 21 per cent of people in the North West.

The report by the TUC has been released to mark the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the minimum wage.

North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said: “The figures are a cause for concern, particularly those blackspots that have emerged throughout the region.

“Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times. The squeeze on pay is hurting individuals and hurting families.

"It’s also having a damaging impact on our economy.

“There’s been a rise in the number of employers paying the living wage and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it but government must show equal initiative.”