The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world and the third largest in Europe, behind France and Germany, with predictions being made we could even overtake Germany by 2030.
So why are we still not paying our unskilled and semi-skilled workers enough to eat and heat in Britain today? The Minimum Wage – the hourly take-home pay set by law – is £6.31 for over 21s. This is immoral considering the inflation-busting cost of energy and food we have seen in this country over many years and boosted by the Labour Party-induced crash of 2008. And this does not even take into account the exorbitant rents and house prices.
It seems George Osborne – at least on the surface – thinks the same. The Chancellor has signalled he intends to raise the Minimum Wage to £7 an hour. This will still leave many living from hand to mouth and still heavily reliant on housing benefit and tax credits to make ends meet but it is a start.
I personally am in favour of the ‘Living Wage’ being enshrined in law. This would be £8.80 in London and £7.65 in the rest of the UK.
This isn’t a Right versus Left argument (anymore). Labour’s Ed Miliband’s advocates a Living Wage as does Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson who has said he is in favour of people being paid a decent wage for a decent day’s work:
“Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too.”
We don’t know how Boris (if he was ever in national power) would implement a Living Wage. We do know Ed Miliband would bribe businesses by offering a tax rebate if they sign up to his policy.
But I don’t think businesses should be bribed one penny. The Living Wage should be legislated and let the businesses suck it up. Oh, what’s that? Do I hear some sections of the Tory squirearchy, who opposed the Minimum Wage at its inception, braying it would lose jobs? No it wouldn’t. Read the first paragraph of my post again. Britain is awash with money – it’s just mainly funnelled to the top 1% or to the Exchequer in middle-class tax intake. It is disappointing to read Ipswich’s very own Ben Gummer is not even in favour of raising the Minimum Wage let alone imposing a Living Wage. I personally like Ben so I won’t try and guess why he thinks this – I am happy for him to use the Comments to let us all know.
Raising the Minimum Wage then looking at introducing a Living Wage is a win-win scenario. It means more people paying tax and less money spent subsidising wages through tax credits and rents through housing benefit. In an economy which is the third largest in the EU single market, it is frankly obscene the British Government is forced to subsidise unskilled and semi-skilled workers’ wages with tax credits. This will not end overnight but we must travel in the direction of businesses paying their workers a decent wage commensurate with the profit they make for their owners.
Coupled with the Government’s policy on welfare, soon to be capped at £26,000 and hopefully being pushed lower in the coming years, a raised Minimum Wage will help to show the thousands languishing on benefits that work pays. And it may just help with the number one concern of British people after the economy: uncontrolled immigration. With more incentive given to the indigenous workforce for taking unskilled jobs, it will make Britain less attractive to temporary foreign workers.
The politics of New Labour and Gordon Brown never wanted to deal with the problem of low pay, happy instead to pay unskilled people off with tax credits and benefits, even ghettoising them into whole neighbourhoods. But the politics of George Osborne (even if it is insincere) may help to make this country a more moral place to live.