Bar staff are the third worst paid people in the country, making an average of only £198.60 a week, the latest report from the Hospitality Training Foundation, the Labour Market Review 2002, reveals.

Only kitchen hands and supermarket checkout staff are paid less money, the report says, with all three averaging just over £10,000 a year. In contrast, male manual workers in other sectors earn an average 30% more than their counterparts in hospitality, at around £13,800 a year.

The report says bar staff pay rose by just 1% from 2000 to 2001, despite inflation of around 2%, meaning bar staff suffered a real wage cut.

Two other hospitality jobs, catering assistants and waiting staff, also appear in the bottom 10 worst paid jobs. The foundation points out that the bare figures fail to reflect other benefits that might be included in the remuneration package, such as accommodation allowances, free meals, tips and so on. But government research among hospitality staff points to low pay as the biggest reason for leaving a job, with the result that 45% of pubs say they are struggling to recruit good people, even though hourly pay rates are above the minimum wage, at £4.75 for male bar staff and £4.44 for females.

The report revealed a 25% pay gap between male and female bar employees, with men on an average £234.30 a week, £12,200 a year, and women on only £179.70 a week, £9,300 a year. Much of the difference appears to be down to women being more likely to be working part-time: in the past six years, the report says, the proportion of part-time workers in the industry has grown from 56% to 58%. Among licensees, men earn £356.14 a week, £18,500 a year, while women licensees earned £308.72 a week, £16,000 a year, or 13.5% less.

Only chefs seem to be benefiting from

the skills shortage, the report says, with chefs' salaries up by 12% in the past year. The report says that the biggest problem area for employers is finding chefs, with more than 15,000 chef vacancies across the hospitality industry, nearly twice as many as for bar staff.

Unfilled vacancies, that is those not filled after being advertised for three months, range from 60% to 80% of the total, depending on the region.

The report suggests the high unfilled demand for chefs is because of a change in the nature of the job in the past few years: "Several years ago there was a shift in the skills requirements of chefs, particularly in the pub sector with the advent of pre-prepared foods. Since then there has been a move to more fresh ingredients, increased food preparation and cooking on site. Many employers may now be struggling to find candidates who have been trained in specific skills."

The number of unfilled bar staff vacancies varies between 40% and 50% in most of the country, rising in the East Midlands to 67%.

Pub managers are another increasingly valuable resource, with, in the biggest High Street venues, managers earning up to £40,000 at an early stage in their career. The recruitment agency Berkeley Scott says: "The large number of sales and acquisitions has resulted in a number of 'golden handcuff' packages.

But there are wide variations in managers' pay, from £25,000 a year for a manager in a £1m turnover house operated by a regional company, to £16,000 in a smaller pub.

Top area managers in the managed sector can get as much as £45,000 but the highest pay for tenanted estate area managers is only is £35,000. Regional managers can earn up to £75,000 at a managed company but only £60,000 in a tenanted pubco.

Labour Market Review 2002 is available from the Hospitality Training Foundation's publications department on 020 8579 2400 priced at £59.