Home » Politics: Thoughts, Ideas & Opinions » Struggling To Make Ends Meet – Poverty in the 21st Century.

Struggling To Make Ends Meet – Poverty in the 21st Century.


Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition Party), Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) and many others are now calling for, and indeed advocating the introduction of a living wage in the UK. What is this initiative? Well, it’s an hourly rate for working people, which is re-set each year to reflect the increases in costs of living. The rate of this living wage is based around what an employee requires to provide their family with the mere essentials of life.

The recommendations for these living wage rates are; £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour for the rest of the UK. Yet, these figures have already come under criticism for falling short of the real requirements of what workers need to survive.

Yet people are expected to now survive on a minimum wage. In comparison to the current minimum wage for those who are aged 21 and above, which is now a paltry £6.19 an hour; the figures above already prove a shortfall for the workforce. Most employers will only pay the minimum wage, regardless of the job, the duties and qualifications required. Cheap labour, exploitation and damn near slavery are what the UK work force is used to. With unemployment on the increase the employer ethos of ‘take it of leave it’ is never more powerful. People will put up with terrible wages and unfair working conditions or face unemployment. It isn’t exactly job satisfaction that keeps people working, inasmuch as sheer necessity. Workers in the UK are already being short changed of the basic requirements that are needed for them to actually live, so then how are they currently surviving without a living wage?

Well, when people don’t earn a living wage they have to work two jobs rather than one, get credit cards and loans merely to eat, and actually to travel to work! People are forced to live in poverty whilst actually working full time, their children aren’t eating properly, they can’t afford to heat their own homes and so and so on. What century is this anyway? Seems awfully analogous to something Dickensian.

Things have changed, relatively perhaps; but the premise remains the same.

So isn’t the living wage an answer to all those issues? Well, it is a fairer and more equitable option, where employees may actually feel they have value. Surely working people deserve to earn enough to live and participate in society, otherwise they might as well be outcasts. What are they working for exactly; and it isn’t just to pay taxes and pay bills (those days are, or I thought they were, over)! This isn’t a time of the landed gentry and farming peasants! People want to live a life! At the moment most people aren’t, so if the current minimum wage isn’t doing society justice then what are the issues with changing it?

Well, the UK Government are the issues. They aren’t sold on implementing a living wage, but crazily enough they are happy to provide benefits to subsidise low income families (those surviving off the minimum wage). In fact the amount of benefits being paid to those in work is on the increase! That means that society is already helping out low-paid employers, which to be honest really makes no sense. Doesn’t that outlay of benefits alone indicate that the wages are too low in comparison to the ever increasing cost of living and taxes? Why not then just solve the root of the issue instead of applying a sticking plaster that clearly doesn’t work; as people are still in poverty!

Yet, it isn’t merely about the cost of these benefits to the taxpayer; it’s about the cost of changing people’s work ethic. Actually demonstrating that is does pay to work. That people aren’t just working to pay the bills, and keep their heads just above the water line. That life isn’t all hard slog and little else; I mean isn’t that what the mill workers in 19th century thought about their lives? When will this working poverty and servitude ever change for the working people of the UK? It is a perpetual and entrenched vicious circle! What does society or the economy get out of such a system, nothing!

I thought we’d left the cotton mills behind?

For those who argue the UK couldn’t afford a living wage, that is somewhat naïve and morally wrong. What makes more sense; extra household debt (ethereal money that doesn’t really exist in the economy, and that no-one can afford to pay back), and money being given in benefits from taxes, or, money given in real wages whereby it can be properly invested into the economy?

I can see why this push for change is being blocked though; ordinary working folk could actually gain something rather than merely get less. I know; it’s a shocker and such an outrageous idea! How dare the ordinary people want more than merely working their hearts out for nothing other than paying their bills! What is the 21st century coming to?! Any new initiative meant to embetter a workers life comes up against opposition; the national minimum wage itself wasn’t looked upon favourably, neither were trade unions, equal pay, employee rights or the abolition of child labour, oh, and slavery.

How can a country prosper if their people don’t? Simple question, yet no one is willing to answer it!

Check out: http://www.livingwage.org.uk/

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© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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8 thoughts on “Struggling To Make Ends Meet – Poverty in the 21st Century.

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  4. When I first heard about this, my reaction was to question how the UK and its economy would be able to afford the rise in wages. But, reading your post has helped me to realised that, yes, there are plenty of low-earners also in receipt of necessary benefits – I even work with a single father who has two seventeen-year-old kids and he receives three kinds of child support benefit. He’ll lose it once they finish their education but, he struggles even now, living in a council-owned home.

    We are indeed in a situation where the majority are working simply to pay the bills and taxes, with some allowance for food on the table. It is distant from the ideals of comfortable living; we are not always free to enjoy our spare time and past-time pursuits. It’s the sort of situation that accelerates the rise in stress levels and mental health problems (depression, etc.).

    How does life compare in Spain?

    • Hey you!

      Thanks for dropping by my blog again, and leaving such a great comment. Much appreciated!

      I concur; a living wage would be beneficial, especially for someone like your colleague. As long as they set the rate correctly.

      Indeed, mental health and stress is a massive issue in this. Working and nothing else is a recipe for disaster. We all need time out and to live a life!

      Well to answer your question, Spain seems different to me. People here value time out; social time and family time. They eat out, and have a great social life; they seem to enjoy life more. Regardless of the ‘recession’. There are so many bars and restaurants here, and they are busy every night of the week! So, it can’t be all bad news. Its all about being out and about here, not in the house.

      I feel rejuvenated being here, I was in a bad situation in the UK, feeling there was no way out and struggling really. Here, I am living a life I haven’t been able to for a couple of years (as the economic crisis hit the UK).

      I dread returning to the UK to be honest. It has become a place associated with doom and gloom (financially).

      Best wishes, Bex 🙂

      • Good morning!

        I went to Salut a few years ago with a group of friends and I’d been told that it was ‘more quiet’ than the likes of Majorca… It was full bars and everything you’d expect to attract nightlife and tourism!!

        Comparing that to the UK, I don’t believe that we’re even half as ‘welcoming’ towards tourists. Maybe the weather does help but, it does seem as though we could be doing a lot more. People, particularly the younger generations, live for their night lives perhaps more than the chance to see British history…

        I’m pleased to hear that the move has given you a new lease of life. It must have been difficult in the beginning but it sounds like you’re able to look back without regret. 🙂

        • Good morning to you also!

          Yeah, well I’m in Madrid so it is kind of a ‘working’ city and tourist city. To be honest I usually see and hear more US tourist than Brits, I’m not sure why though?! Yet, the night life here is all important, just like throughout Spain. I think it is because no-one eats Dinner until 9.00 PM, but usually much later than that!

          No, Britain is still not really a night life culture, well, not in every region. Shops still close at 5 or 6 and the only places open until 2 or 3 AM are the clubs! Its not a night time place really, the weather no doubt plays a part! Yet, it is a shame.

          Awww, thank you for that! Yes, it has! It is good here and I enjoy it. Well, been here before the move, about 3 times, so knew what to expect. It was the case of having to get on with it, for the sake of something better! Though, it can be difficult sometimes; confidence and negative thoughts, being anxious and so on. But, I don’t regret it!

          Take care, and thanks once again!
          Bex 🙂

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