Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Crazy Idea 17 - Legislate to bring about a Living Wage for all

Following on from creating full employment and regardless of the counter intuitive increase in spending that would result, I propose the Government needs to set out a clear plan of how the whole country can benefit from living wages.

I first came across the idea of a Living Wage through the Joseph Rowntree Foundation: An organisation that continues the ideals of the Rowntree family, who worked hard to ensure that every worker in their factories benefitted from the profits that were made. (CI017A)

I lived in York for a decade and didn’t have to walk far to find communities that had been established for the workers in the factories. York may have been a chocolate city but workers had homes built of brick.

It’s no surprise that JRF continues to campaign for workers rights.

Recently they released a new report: Poverty and the cost of living (CI017B)

Among many excellent points this report makes, “Low-income individuals are less likely to be ‘active consumers’ switching suppliers and shopping around, partly due to a lack of access to ‘enabling goods’ that give consumers advantages, e.g. a bank account or internet access.” The fact is that those on low incomes are doubly disadvantaged.

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re better off than a significant portion of the population.

A living wage is what it sounds like: a wage you can live on. I said in my last post that I couldn’t live on the minimum wage.

Well, perhaps I could. If I sold my children, divorced my wife and slept on someone else's sofa.

“The modern UK Living Wage Campaign was launched by members of London Citizens in 2001. The founders were parents in the East End of London, who wanted to remain in work, but found that despite working two or more minimum wage jobs they were struggling to make ends meet and were left with no time for family and community life.” (CI017C)

If you’re earning more than minimum wage, can you imagine what it would be like never having money?

Unfortunately, there are too many people in Britain who don’t even get minimum wage...

The Living Wage is based in part on the JRF Minimum Income Standard. (CI017D)

Patrick Butler, writing in The Guardian July 2014 has this to say about MIS: “...a basic, no-frills human existence... its frugality is striking. It is an austere menu by modern western middle-class standards... little in the way of fripperies...” (CI017E)

The Living Wage is not easy to live on but it is possible to have a good live. A life worth living...

Unemployment is only part of the problem the poorest in society face. The welfare system, despite of or because of its good intentions has trapped people on benefits. We hear again and again that some people just cannot afford to work.

In this I wholeheartedly agree with David Cameron and George Osborne. A welfare system that discourages people seeking work is of no use to society.

But unlike Cameron and Osborne I insist that unless jobs exist that pay living wages, we will be unable to do away with the welfare system.

We as a society need a clear plan to bring all wages and salaries to a point where one person working can earn enough to support a small family. Why one person? I believe that babies and young children need the presence of a parent.

I do not believe that society should provide enough that those families would be living in luxury. But there are minimum needs as JRF’s Minimum Income Standard make clear.

Increasing all wages to the point where everyone earns enough to live on will not fix the economy but it may help fix society. And maybe if we could address extreme poverty, we could also find the will to fix the economy.

Could we as a society agree a five year plan to enable all who want work to earn a Living Wage? Or is this just another crazy idea?

Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals. There's a short bio here.

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(CI017A; JRF; http://www.jrf.org.uk)

(CI017B; JRF; http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/cost-of-living-poverty)

(CI017C; Living Wage Foundation; http://www.livingwage.org.uk/history)

(CI017D; JRF; http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/minimum-income-standard-2014)

(CI017E; The Guardian; http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/01/minimum-income-standard-joseph-rowntree-foundation)

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