HARTLEPOOL has the region’s highest proportion of women working part-time and earning less than the living wage according to the data provided by the TUC.
More than half of town women – 55.9 per cent – are paid below the living wage, analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library show.
And TUC officials say for every pound earned by men full-time, women working part-time earn just 66p.
The union says one of the main reasons for this huge gender pay divide is the large concentration of women doing low-paid, part-time work.
The living wage – the pay rate needed to let workers lead a decent life – is currently set at £7.65 an hour.
The national mininum wage is lower, at £6.31 an hour.
The town fares the worst out of the whole of the North East for ensuring fair pay for females.
Pamela Hargreaves, chair of the Hartlepool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I think from a small business perspective, while all the businesses I’m sure would dearly love to be able to pay the living wage, because it’s the right and proper thing to do, potentially it can put quite a strain on their finances in this difficult economic climate.
“I think as the economy picks up and businesses begin to thrive again, I think it’s certainly an aspiration all businesses should aim to do.
“But from a social perspective, absolutely all employers should be striving to pay the living wage.
“I also know from running a charity, Hartlepool Families First, whilst it’s an aspiration it can be difficult to achieve it.”
North Tyneside has the region’s lowest proportion of women working part-time for less than the living wage at 37.9 per cent.
Nationally, Watford has the lowest proportion, with 16.9 per cent.
Union officials say the situation in North Tyneside shows what can be done when unions, employers and campaigners work together to tackle low pay.
Ms Hargreaves, also a town councillor, addded: “What Hartlepool needs to do is examine why it has the highest proportion in the region.
“If North Tyneside has a model that’s working, we as a town should be looking at the model and adopting some of those practices so we can make a dent in those figures.
“It’s clearly across the board, from women director level to part-time roles – women don’t seem to be treated fairly and valued as much as male counterparts.”
The TUC wants to see more employers paying the living wage, to help tackle “in-work poverty” and close the gender pay gap.
It believes local authorities should lead by example by becoming living wage employers themselves.
Last September, Hartlepool Borough Council became a Living Wage authority which meant 405 council employees saw their pay rise from £6.45 to £7.26 an hour.
Authority chiefs are also encouraging firms that have contracts with the council to folllow suit.
The union also wants to see more jobs advertised on a part-time basis, ending the requirement that women have to be in post for six months before they have the right to request flexible working.
TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “In-work poverty is growing across the North East and it’s often women who bear the brunt of low pay.
“The living wage was created so that work can provide staff with a basic standard of living.
“But in places like Hartlepool, the majority of women working part-time are earning nowhere near this.”