More than half a million employees working in the South East earn less than the amount needed to achieve a basic standard of living, according to new research.
The study, which was commissioned by accountancy firm KPMG, found that 530,000 staff are paid less than £7.20 an hour - the rate deemed to be a "living wage".
This equates to 16 per cent of the region's workforce, which placed it joint bottom with London in terms of the proportion of people who make less than the living wage.
However, the South East was behind only London and the North West in terms of having the highest overall number of people struggling to maintain basic standards.
Nationally, some 4.82 million people - or around one in five workers - are paid less than the living wage.
Nine out of bar staff did not earn enough to achieve a basic standard of living, along with 85 per cent of waiters and waitresses, and three-quarters of kitchen and catering assistants.
In terms of overall numbers, sales and retail assistants were most likely to fall below the living wage, with 780,000 earning less than the required amount.
The report noted that while financial confidence is generally low regardless of income, it is particularly weak among people surviving below the living wage.
Of these, 41 per cent felt their finances were in a worse condition than a month ago, compared with just 25 per cent of those earning more than the living wage.
Another 47 per cent feared that they will be even worse off in a year's time.
Marianne Fallon, head of corporate affairs at KPMG, said, "This research really lays bare the extent of the problem of low pay in Britain.
"Paying a living wage makes a huge difference to the individuals and their families and yet does not actually cost an employer much more."
The research was published ahead of Living Wage Week, which runs from 4 to 10 November.
By Andy Jowett