Three-quarters of workers who were in low pay ten years ago are still stuck in it today, a report has found.
Thinktank the Resolution Foundation also showed that fewer than one-in-five had managed to escape and move up the career ladder.
Entry-level work provides a vital first step for unemployed people, and if it works as a trap the previously workless are likely to suffer more than most.
Low pay is defined as less than two-thirds of the national average, and only covered 15% of workers in 1975.
The number grew to 23% in 1996 and still stands at 21% today.
This means that more than five million people are low paid now, while around one-in-five is paid below the minimum wage despite the fact that this is illegal.
The Resolution Foundation found that top earners had moved further away from the rest, but the minimum wage had kept those at the bottom closer to the middle.
Between 2009 and 2012, the number of workers living in poverty has rocketed from 3.4 million to 4.8 million, while average pay now stands at £21,300.
When adjusted for inflation, this means the average worker is now £3,300 worse off every year than they were before the recession.
The government has stated that it wants to make work pay, but its only policies towards this have concentrated on making benefits unliveable.
This has included cutting and capping their value and increasing the rate of sanctions, while the minimum wage has lost value and pay continues to fall in real value.