A recent report published by an independent commission chaired by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has revealed serious concerns about the future of poorer paid workers in the UK. The report claims that many millions of people on lower wages would fail to benefit from the apparent economic upturn in the country unless they were able to earn more than the projected ‘living wage’. Calculated according to a basic standard of living, the wage currently stands at £7.65 per hour (£8.80 for those living in London) and compares unfavourably against the actual minimum wage of £6.31 per hour (Q&A about the minimum wage can be found here).
The Commission revealed that some 5million UK workers are currently paid less than the living wage, despite an increase in those receiving it of more than 400,000 in the last year. Employers are not bound by the figure – it is a purely voluntary affair – and are prone not to meet demand to match it. the Archbishop explained that many people were ‘doing two or three jobs to make ends meet’ and implored employers, with economic recovery in sight, to ‘choose between continuing to make gains on the back of poverty wages, or doing the right thing and paying a fair wage for a hard day’s work.’
Part of the problem stems from the fact that prices for ‘ordinary’ goods have risen at a rate that far outstrips those seen for more expensive items; food costs, for example, have increased by 44% since 2005, while the cost of cars has remained static and audio-visual equipment now costs roughly half that from 2005. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, was keen to point out that while the UK economy Has experienced something of a revival, ‘most people’s paypackets’ have yet to do so, a sentiment echoed by the Archbishop. Sixty percent of companies, it must be noted, agree that the minimum wage should be increased, but in line with inflation rather than the proposed living wage.