The idea of a Living Wage stems from various different areas, including religious, cultural and philosophical traditions. Obviously, there is a minimum amount of income needed for a person in order to survive. That means having enough money to pay for your basic necessities, including shelter, food and clothing. While the government has set a nationwide minimum wage, this does not provide everyone with enough to support themselves due to the rising cost of living. Some areas are far more expensive than others to live in, which means that the minimum wage is simply not enough.
What this means is that you end up with a group of people, who are working hard for a living, but do not make enough to live a comfortable life. While they are working a minimum wage job, or sometimes more than one, they are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Due to long hours of work, you end up in a situation where you have no time to spend with your family or enjoy a community life. These people are otherwise, appropriately enough, known as the working poor.
The national minimum wage is simply too low
Currently, the UK National Minimum Wage is £6.50 for those who are 21 and over. The Living Wage outside of London is now £7.85. How much of a difference does this make to your annual salary? Well, assuming you work 38 hours per week, as the Living Wage Foundation did in their calculations, you can expect an annual salary of £15,511.60 under the UK Living Wage, and an annual salary of £12,844 under the UK National Minimum Wage. Even after taking tax into account, it’s a big difference.
As you can imagine, this difference would have a huge impact on your day to day life. It would allow you the opportunity to actually provide for yourself and your family. Not only that, but it would allow you to work less for the same amount, leaving you more free time to spend with those you love. Imagine what an effect this would have on your mental wellbeing! You would be less worried about money, spend less time working and more time with your family.
So, at the heart of it, the argument is really an ethical one to prevent exploitation of workers and in-work poverty. A Living Wage should not be seen as a privilege in today’s society, but is should be seen as a basic right. This day in age you would not expect there to be poverty in work and it needs to end.
Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too. It is the right thing for our city and our people.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
Who is subsidising this?
With such a big difference in the amount people get paid at a minimum and how much they need to enjoy a decent standard of living, you have to wonder, just how do they survive? That’s where the government steps in with their means-tested benefits.
So great, it’s all nicely covered with benefits. Of course, it’s up to the taxpayer to subsidise these poverty wages, and with roughly 20% of the working population earning less than the living wage, the taxpayer is facing a hefty burden. In fact, they are subsidising this wage to the tune of a whopping £3.6bn a year. Roughly £1.1bn of that goes on benefits.
What can be done?
Lots of big name employers have signed up to the Living Wage campaign, but at this stage it’s all voluntary. The good thing is that employers are now starting to view it as a badge of honours – you can now support businesses doing the right thing by looking for this so called badge.
So, support the right businesses and look out for those who pay the Living Wage. Do more by joining campaigns such as this one by the British Youth Council. Together, we can do our part to help improve the economic situation of millions in the UK. Of course, it’s not just up to the people, as Andy Harrop put it, it should be up to the government as well.
Over a parliament, steep increases to the minimum wage should be implemented to bring it into line with the UK living wage.
Andy Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian society, The Economic Alternative
If we all work together, we can help erradicate in-work poverty and give people the opportunity to support themselves and their family. Everyone who works should be able to earn enough to do this, and the fact that we have gotten to this point in our society leaves me thinking that the government has a lot to answer for. Help fight in-work poverty and create a better life for everyone in the UK.