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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.
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!
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.