MORE people are being forced into volatile, low-paid jobs, threatening the economy's stability, according to a new report by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Researchers for the foundation and another organisation, Centre for Cities, found that more than one in five workers is now on low pay, with more employed than unemployed households in poverty.

They said the gap between good and poor quality jobs had polarised, with cities in the North particularly affected; a third of employment in Sunderland and Hull was low paid, while in Grimsby, Blackpool and Doncaster, one in four workers earned less than two-thirds of the median national wage.

The report comes just weeks after it emerged that York has the highest level of jobs growth in low-skilled and low-paid occupations in the country.

The Press reported last month that figures from the Office for National Statistics had revealed that out of all the jobs created in York over the past four years, 51 per cent of them had been 'elementary' occupations. These were defined as being those which require the knowledge and experience necessary to perform mostly routine tasks, often involving the use of simple hand-held tools and, in some cases, requiring a degree of physical effort.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Foundation, speaking after the publication of the latest research, said that earlier research for the JRF had demonstrated the striking growth in working families living in poverty.

"Economically weak cities are home to increasing concentrations of poor working households, whilst two-tier economies are emerging in our more successful urban centres," she said.

"Job quality is a burning issue, particularly in low-skill, low-wage sectors such as retail, hospitality and care.

"As more cities start leading on growth strategies they must respond as part of this work to the shifts occurring in the labour market.

"We need new thinking if we are to crack the problems around training, progression at work and job security that seem to keep increasing numbers of people stuck in entry level jobs."

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said low paying jobs had always existed but in many cities, the pathways to upward mobility has been severely eroded, as their jobs markets polarised and the stable jobs of the 'middle' began to slip away.