One in four workers in Bolton are not being paid the “real living wage”, with most considered critical to the coronavirus response.

New estimates released by the Office for National Statistics show that 23,000 jobs in the borough aren’t paying well enough .

Martin Challender, branch communications officer for UNISON in Bolton, said: “One of the biggest things for our branch is that a lot of our members work in private care homes getting just above minimum wage.

“It’s quite a precarious situation for them at the moment and that extends across the whole sector to delivery drivers, supermarket staff, and cleaners too.

“People are on the minimum wage or just above it and with the COVID-19 crisis a lot of these people are essential.

“The fact that the government is willing to spend billions on the crisis shows that we can afford to pay better wages.”

The "real living wage" is a voluntary scheme created by the Living Wage Foundation, a charity pushing for fair wages.

It is calculated independently from the government and is based on costs such as food, clothing and household bills.

The organisation believes that workers outside of London need to earn £9.30 an hour to have a real living wage.

The statutory National Living Wage (NLW), the legal hourly rate for workers over 25, is £8.72.

These figures suggest that hundreds of thousands of key workers across the country are earning wages too low to cover their cost of living.

Vital roles where staff are underpaid include hospital cleaners and porters, teaching assistants, and carers.

UNISON has pushed employers in Bolton to ensure they're paying workers a fair wage, and has seen some workplaces offer staff more pay.

Mr Challender added: “We’ve had some successes with employers but it’s an uphill battle.

“This current crisis shows that we can’t go back to millions of people on low wages.

“When this is over, people will be saying we want to be treated a lot better as workers."

This year's NLW rise will see 2.4m of the country's lowest paid workers receive almost an extra £1,000 a year.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “It is right we ensure the lowest paid are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, particularly those working in essential services during the biggest threat this country has faced in decades."

Economists have, however, urged against new rises before the full toll of the crisis is clear.