According to the ONS, there are around 5.9 million workers in this country not paid the Living Wage.That is roughly a fifth of the workforce. That is scandalous in one of the richest countries in the world. The Living Wage I’m talking about of course is the one that is defined by the Living Wage Foundation and not the government’s so called “National Living Wage” which is actually over £2 less an hour than the Living Wage in London. The Living Wage in London is £9.40 an hour and for the rest of the country it is £8.25 an hour and is calculated by independent economists as the average cost of living.
Whilst Labour have been rightly talking about the cut in Working Tax Credits next April which is set to make the lowest paid workers over a £1000 a year worse off, the elephant in the room is that a lot of these workers are still paid less than a wage they can live on. What the government have done is arbitrarily cut Tax Credits whilst raising the Tax Free Personal Allowance and creating this “National Living Wage” for anyone over 25 thus apparently making people better off. However this has been quickly rebutted by the IFS who have said their measures will not make the lowest paid better off.
What needs to happen is that every adult that works needs to get paid the Living Wage and anything else they need to cover the cost of living should be provided by Tax Credits. I include under 25s in this. At the moment they are not even entitled to this new National Living Wage and have to settle for the derisory £6.50 an hour as a minimum whilst of course not being able to claim Working Tax Credits or Housing Benefit if they are under 21. But according to the Tory Employment Minister, under 25s are not worth this National Living Wage as they are not as “productive”. Obviously this is unproven nonsense and regardless of whether under 25s are as productive or whatever experience they have, surely everyone deserves a wage they can live on as a bare minimum.
And it is screamingly obvious that if the Living Wage was introduced as the minimum wage, Working Tax Credits costs to the taxpayer will lower naturally as people will claim less. People will also have more disposable income and this will help the economy as the minimum wage did when it was first introduced. And if there are small businesses or charities that can prove they can’t afford to pay their staff this, this is where Tax Credits come in to top up that staff’s income.
So what can be done to make sure everyone is paid it?
Well there are a number of things we can do. Support the Living Wage Foundation by helping them with their campaigns. Start a campaign in your local area to encourage businesses and councils to pay the Living Wage. What the Green Party will be doing as part of our campaign in the London Assembly elections is create “Calling Cards” to leave to staff in shops to tell us their stories about how low paid they are or what their working conditions are generally like. Putting real-life stories to this campaign will help gain support and pressure the government and businesses alike to pay their staff the Living Wage. This is something that everyone, regardless of the differences in political views, can get behind. So what are you waiting for?