Surviving, not living: The workers taking second jobs in cost-of-living crisis

Whether it’s employees or employers, the last two years have been the toughest in living memory, ITV News Investigations Editor Dan Hewitt reports

Jamie is knackered. The builder sits slumped on his sofa, in his one bedroom flat in Bridgend, having finished a hard day on the tools.

It's 7pm. The 35-year-old looks mentally as well physically exhausted, but his working day is not yet done.

Having just spent nine hours driving forklift trucks and wagons, Jamie will soon leave for his second shift as a cleaner at a local office block.

"Bills, food, petrol, clothes, school trips, school uniform - everything has just skyrocketed," the father-of-one tells me.

"It just led me to have to permanently have a second job just so the money that I make will cover the bills, and then I've got a bit of cash.

"It's just, you can work all the hours you want, but it's just not enough. So the second income was sort of a needs must."

I arrived at Jamie's at the start of the day, just after 5.30am.

He was up before the sun, and his working day won't end until after it has set.

Every hour counts, because so does every penny.

We are standing in the kitchen of the flat he rents for £600 per month. His five-year-old son's toys are strewn on the floor of the small living room. Jacob splits his time between Jamie and his mum.

Jamie is desperate for a two bedroom place so Jacob can have his own room, but he can't afford it.

He tells me he got a second job a few months ago, after his outgoings started to come scarily close to matching his incoming wage.

"If I go on the basic rate of what I'm on at the moment, it leaves me enough to survive, but not to live.

"I've got a child to look after, and when you're on your own, and then with the cost-of-living at the moment and everything going up, you just got to keep going, to keep grinding it."

His working boots on, he leaves for the building site at 6.30am.

We meet again later that evening after his shift, at the park, with Jacob. He adores his son, and his son adores him. As Jamie pushes his boy back and forth on the swings, he explains where his money is going.

"It's enough to survive, but not to live," Jamie says

"After bills I think I'm left with just shy of £400 pounds a month, but when you take in consideration fuel for work and a food shop over four weeks. It's gone. Nothing is spare."

I ask if he has any savings.

"Gone. No savings. Gone in the last six months."

Jamie drops Jacob off at his mum's, and heads back to the flat. A quick bite to eat, and then it’s back out to work again.

It is 9pm, we're still with him. He's vacuuming the corridors of an office block a short drive from his house, and cleaning the windows.

I ask Jamie how long he plans to do this for.

"I've burned out before, and you kind of do feel just drained, mentally exhausted… You need a timeout, but bills don't take a timeout.

"It's a week-to-week paycheck. I don't know. I honestly don't know."

Full time workers in Wales are on average £42 per week worse off in real terms than they were three years ago, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Nearly a third of households (28%) told the Bevan Foundation they've had to borrow money to survive in the last year.

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A few miles away, still in Bridgend, in one of South Wales' beautiful valleys, live Rob and Robyn.

They have three children. The youngest, Imogen, arrived four weeks ago. She was a wonderful surprise to two working parents whose other children are 13 and nine years old.

They have been further shocked by the costs that have followed.

We join Robyn picking up baby supplies in her local supermarket.

"Formula, £14.45 - it's quite a lot - I remember it being £9 when my [elder] daughter was a baby," she says.

"It is quite a worry because everything is going up… You know it doesn't cost that much to make, but obviously it's profit for the companies.

"Nappies, new baby ones, they're £9. So she's gone through £36 of nappies since she's been born.

"When she gets into the food stuff, I will make it otherwise you’re looking at £2 a meal."

Back at their three bedroom home, which they rent from a housing association, her husband Rob is preparing to go to work. He's a delivery driver for a supermarket, and also plays darts, which sometimes brings in an extra bit of cash.

They struggled even before Imogen was born.

Rob's wages won't be enough by the time Robyn's maternity pay ends, the couple explains

"Over the years where we have struggled. We've lent money, payday loans etcetera," says Rob.

"Money comes in, it goes out, and no matter how much money there is, you always find something that needs to be done."

"Basically everything, the monthly direct debits, the bigger bills like the rent, the council tax, the car insurance, the car finance… that's gone off up," says Robyn.

"It's ridiculous."

The biggest dilemma ahead for the couple is when, if, Robyn goes back to work as an occupational therapist in the NHS after maternity leave.

They need her wage to get by, but the cost of nursery fees - which would be well over £1,000 a month if she returned full time - has her questioning what's best.

"I have to work… But it's like why go to work when you're paying someone else to bring up your children? It just doesn't make sense.

"Yes, you do want to be a good role model for your children to show them, like go out to work every day, but then you're missing out on so much of their life as well.

"I'm paying all my wages for somebody else to look after my child so I could be at home."

Employment in Wales is the lowest of the four nations of the UK. It also has the most people classed as economically inactive.

Robyn doesn't know what to do when her maternity leave ends, as the cost of childcare will be similar to the money she earns at work. Credit: ITV News

For Welsh businesses, desperate to grow and hire more people, there's a fear things are going backwards.

A short drive across to the capital from Bridgend, we visit Cardiff Galvanisers, a family-run business that has been brought to its knees by rising outgoings.

At a giant metal processing plant, where they predominantly supply products for the housing industry, 18 months ago their annual energy bill jumped from £280,000 to £1.2 million.

Their energy bill has since dropped to £600,000, but having survived that enormous jump, they are now facing a slowdown in work and jobs are under threat.

“The boys are on hourly rates, so if the work’s not here for them, then there’s no work for them,” says 29-year-old production manager Zac Welch.

The company relies on housebuilding for many of its contracts, but with work dropping off, they’re looking at the possibility of having to make seven to 10 men redundant.

“It’s just to try and stay afloat,” Zac says.

Zac also has his own family to support.

“I’ve got three boys,” he says. “It’s very hard. I haven’t been on holiday for the last 10 years. I haven’t left the country because I can’t afford it.”

"Now we're looking at redundancies, just to stay afloat," Zac tells ITV News

Whether it’s employees or employers, the last two years have been the toughest in living memory.

The ‘cost-of-living crisis’ has become so ubiquitous a phrase it risks losing all meaning.

Jamie, Robyn and Zac define it.

One job is not enough to live, only to survive.

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