Wages that can be lived on doesn't sound like too much to ask for does it. However, millions in the UK don't receive pay that covers the cost of living - whilst the very rich are getting even richer. The Living Wage Foundation which promotes the adoption of a living wage states that its value is now £8.80 per hour in London and £7.65 elsewhere in the UK. In comparison the legally set national minimum wage is £6.50 for those over 21 yrs, £5.31 for 18-20 yrs, £3.79 if under 18 yrs and £2.73 for apprentices of 16-18 yrs (19 yrs if in the first yr).
The significant difference between the living wage and the minimum wage leaves many people unable to meet their needs, dependent on benefits on which there is a squeeze, taking on dodgy loans, getting into debt - with growing numbers using food banks. Unlike the living wage, the minimum wage does not tackle poverty. The living wage-minimum wage differential is not fair because being fair means meeting needs now and into the future - being decent, caring and honest in giving dues. Meeting needs now and into the future is at the core of sustainability.
Political leaders on the whole sign up to the principle of the living wage. However, current and previous governments have presided over the development of a large pool of labour which is paid poverty wages. Tony Dyer puts it well, observing in the Autumn 2014 Bristol Green News that under a Labour Government in 2004 Bristol South had two of the ten most deprived neighbourhoods in the city - and by 2010 it had eight. He describes how this is not just due to unemployment, given that Bristol South has an employment rate of 79%, above both the city and UK average. He concludes that the deprivation is significantly due to Bristol South wages being well below the UK average with more than 20% earning below the living wage. Tony advocates turning the minimum wage into a genuine living wage, thus enabling people to meet the cost of living and lead decent lives.
We need to aspire to widening what is included in the assessment of a living wage and to reducing the difference between the minimum and maximum wages earned. Needs are those factors required to enable people not just to survive but to thrive, flourish and prosper. They go beyond the basics of food, water, warmth, shelter to the range of wider physical, mental and social factors that produce wellbeing. The promotion of wellbeing and the ability to meet present and future needs is a key feature of the green aim of sustainability.
BBC article on the living wage.
Living Wage Foundation homepage.
Living Wage Wikipedia entry.
Thursday, 16 October 2014
Earning a living
Labels: BAD2014, Blogaction14, Bristol South, cost of living, debt, deprivation, equality, fairness, food banks, inequality, living wage, minimum wage, needs, pay, poverty, prosperity, sustainability, Tony Dyer, wellbeing, work
Open University Tutor, Environmental Science and Management; Former Secondary School Science Teacher; Former Research & Development Technologist/Chemist (Polymer Industry); Campaigner for a sustainable society for several decades; Parliamentary candidate in 1987, 2001, 2010