Saturday saw the Green Party march alongside thousands in London and across Scotland calling for the annihilation of poverty and an increase in real-time incomes.
The Green Party themselves said: “The number of people facing ‘in-work poverty’ and forced to claim benefits whilst working has risen 59% under the Coalition Government, according to the House of Commons Library. The current minimum wage is £6.50, but the Green Party has today argued that this should rise to £10 per hour – a living wage”
Nationally people are confused as to what ‘in-work poverty’ is and this is more often than not due to the nature of our media. [See also – The power of the media, Noah Brown].
The ‘working poor’ are working people whose incomes fall below the poverty line. Poverty is often associated with joblessness yet a significant proportion of the poor are actually employed, as noted by the BBC. If we explore this idea further we can see that the majority of benefit claimants are not the ‘scroungers’ they are painted to be (by the likes of the Daily Mail), but are actually working people being paid inadequate wages.
The Sunday Express actually ran a story just over a year ago which claimed that the cost to every non-claimant is £893 p/a for the housing benefit bill alone. But around the same time that this report was written the Independent ran a report stating that the number of private rents has overtaken the number of social housing. So this benefit is not being invested in people – the state is paying for the rents of private landlords.
The solution: build more social housing.
Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett said: “Our low wage economy of rampant insecurity with forced casualisation and zero-hours contracts isn’t sustainable: workers need jobs they can build a life on, and on which we can build a fairer and more equal society. Our current minimum wage of £6.50 is significantly below the Living Wage Foundation’s calculation of the minimal acceptable standard of £7.65.”
What are the benefits of raising the minimum wage? The days of industrial Europe and Marxist revolution are far gone, we live in a market economy and the economy is thus driven by the consumer. If people earn higher wages they can spend more, thus invigorate the economy and improve their own standard of living. If people earn more then they are less affected by things like stress because they no longer struggle to make ends meet and there is even an argument the cost of health care for the government could go down.
The Living Wage Foundation lists three benefits:
- Good for Business – it enhances quality of the work of their staff, decreases absenteeism, higher recruitment and retention within their organisation.
- Good for Families – it affords people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.
- Good for Society – society will reap the benefits of the other two.
Bennett also said: “That’s why the Green Party is calling for the minimum wage to be made a living wage today, and for a target to be set of a £10/hour minimum wage by 2020 – assuming with inflation pay rises each year in the next parliament. We need to move over towards a 10:1 pay ratio so that we bring an end to a culture in which corporations make huge profits and give out big bonuses whilst there are workers struggling to pay the bills.”
This is very similar to the ideas put forward by the New Economics Foundation, who seek to implement the Living Wage, reduce working hours and reduce income inequality.
Our current government is very good at knowing how to avoid doing so. For example, they have redefined what poverty is and by doing so they are able to create an illusion that they are actually tackling the problem when instead the problem still persists.
The Tory’s opposition’s proposals are equally as ridiculous. Labour have suggested raising the minimum wage to £8 p/h by 2020 which on the face of it seems like a great proposal. Yet with all the rises in inflation and food prices taken into account this would account to a real time wage increase of very little. On the back end of that we also have to ensure that private landlords, supermarkets and energy providers did not just hike their prices higher to offset the higher wages they would be expected to pay. The solution – nationalise the energy sector, build more social housing and nationalise empty homes, and force companies to bring workers onto their boards to ensure the interests of the workers are represented.
The Greens have been the most vocal with regards to a living wage and they have the real solution at heart: a long term one. Short term is for now. Long term is forever.
Image: Britain Needs a Pay Rise march © WJPrior, flickr ¦ Image: Britain Needs a Pay Rise inflatable © See Li, phototoday2008, flickr