Living Wage week was a great success in drawing attention to the large number of low paid workers across the UK, and the importance of finding new ways to boost incomes above the vital pay floor set by the NMW. With over 40,000 workers now benefitting from the work of the Living Wage campaign success has been significant. With real wages continuing to fall our stagnating economy means that even as the jobs figures improve the risk of a low pay, low productivity recovery remains real – if we can’t secure strong growth (and only time will tell whether we can – under current management it doesn’t look likely) then low incomes are set to remain a significant issue for millions of households for years to come.
While it’s far better for people to be in work than out of it, a life on persistently low income is tough, and (particularly when work is insecure) can lead to outcomes that in the long-term are little better than for those who are long-term unemployed. And poverty is an economic as well as a social problem. If incomes aren’t rising, consumer spending remains depressed and we risk an over reliance upon debt – which, as recent events show, can create significant risks for both individuals and the wider economy.
So can the Living Wage alone can solve this problem – of course the answer is that it can’t (and of course no one is arguing that it is). So while the TUC is in full support of the Living Wage campaign, it’s also worth thinking about the wider change we need to boost living standards for low and middle income families.
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