Yesterday saw the start of Living Wage Week, the annual UK-wide campaign organised by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF).
The occasion was marked with a widely-publicised rise in the UK and London Living Wage rates for 2014-15 to £7.85 and £9.15 per hour respectively. This, the LFW hopes, will in principle improve the take home pay of 35,000 low-paid workers who are employed by over 1,000 Living Wage supporting organisations.
The ‘lucky 35,000’ represent a tiny percentage of the millions of UK workers who do not currently receive the Living Wage – one-fifth, according to a report published yesterday by LWF principal partner KPMG.
Approximately 5.28 million UK workers – mainly in the retail, catering and care sectors – receive only the minimum wage, a mere £6.50 per hour. According to the report writers, this virtually guarantees them a hand to mouth existence, stuck in a spiral of continually declining wages and a rising cost of living.
Tim Worstall of Forbes argues that the most pernicious problem is not that wages are too low, but, in his words, “tax poverty”: the level of taxation applied to the working poor is too high.
Whatever the cause, it’s a pretty sorry state of affairs that even when you are fit, able and willing to go out and find work, you still find yourself in the poverty trap: in December 2013, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found there are now more working families living in poverty than non-working families.
Last month, equally damning reports on the UK’s growing problem of child poverty – by Unicef and the Social Mobility Commission – painted a picture of deprivation that is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
And behind the data and the headlines are the often-forgotten personal stories of those affected by wage poverty.
Here at LandAid, we have seen first-hand the damage unemployment and wage poverty is having on a generation of children and young people. The projects we fund or support are often based in areas with high indices of deprivation, providing support to young people at the point of crisis. In other words, when they have nowhere left to turn: when school and social services, or even friends or family, have failed them.
The projects we support take young people on a journey from being in crisis to being financially independent and confident about their future. So it is particularly saddening to think that many of these young people entering the world of work often find themselves working in sectors blighted by low pay. The serpent eats its tail: the cycle of deprivation repeats itself.
It doesn't have to be this way. You can help make a difference by joining our campaign today, and by supporting the Living Wage campaign to help end hardship for those children living in working poor households.
To find out more about the Living Wage campaign, visit www.livingwage.org.uk.