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Saturday, 18th September 2010

UK: Unfinished Business: The Quest for a Living Wage

Unfinished Business: The Quest for a Living Wage (PDF; 1 MB)
Source: Fair Pay Network (UK)
From the Foreword:

Pay that falls below a living wage level not only detracts from the quality of life of individual workers, but has a detrimental effect on the whole community and the public purse. Nearly 60% of the 3 million children living below the poverty line live in households where at least one person is in paid employment. Poor children do less well in school, have reduced life chances and are more likely to be physically or mentally ill.

Tax credits – a vital necessity in the present reality for the one in five adults who do not earn enough to lift their households out of poverty – have been proven to be a wealth distribution mechanism that make a serious contribution towards reducing income inequality and improving social mobility. However, they cost the taxpayer (most of whom are themselves low and modestly paid workers) as much as £20 billion in 2007/8 and any meaningful, larger scale take up of ethical pay policies such as living wage policies would reduce this burden whoch could be far greater shared by low paying, major UK employers.

When the adults in the family have to work long hours or do two or three jobs to pay the bills, they are unlikely to have time to spend with their family, much less to help out at their children’s school, join a tenants’ association or participate in community activities. It is easy to see the connection between low pay and greater problems of crime and disorder, wasted skills and an impoverished civil society.

This is especially important as we face the impact of the economic downturn which is directly linked to the failure of wages to keep pace with living costs over the past two decades. Since 1997, the poorest 10% of households have seen their weekly incomes fall by £9 a week once inflation is taken into account. And as real wages have fallen, the gap between what people earn and what they need has increasingly been filled by debt. The amount owed by UK households has tripled in the past decade.


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