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Friday, 9 November 2012

The Living Wage - a flawed notion or the right thing to do?

It will not have escaped the notice of anyone who reads the more serious as opposed to tabloid press, or indeed anyone who listens to the radio, that this past week has been what has been referred to as the National Living Wage Week. The living wage for those who do not do those things mentioned above, is defined as a wage that enables those who receive it to have a decent as opposed to basic standard of living, giving them the means to feed and clothe their families in a proper way using quality products as opposed to the white label goods commonly on sale (this last bit is my own words). This is given my own situation, as someone who earns considerably less than the living wage (£7.45 for those outside of London as I am), a subject which is close to my heart.

There are  arguments both for and against, with predictably those who are against being mostly the business people and economists. They state that the living wage while a nice idea, is not workable, as there is no such thing as a free pay rise, and to introduce this would make business less competitive leading to job losses for those already in employment and an inability for up and coming small businesses to provide jobs at all. They say then that it is a flawed argument.

I though do not believe that it is flawed at all. For me it is really quite simple. The low paid tend to be those in service sector jobs, such as care work, cleaning (my own profession, for make no mistake, this is a profession and a skilled job) And retail, all those jobs that no one wants to do yet are essential, for everyone depends on them. Those that perform these jobs are the cogs that keep everything else in motion, take those cogs away and the whole system collapses.

We have got it all wrong in this country, in fact in this world, where those who perform the most valuable work are the least paid. It stems from several beliefs, firstly that those who do good deeds should do it for love only, and secondly, and this is the important one, that there is not enough. We all to some extent have this belief, no matter how high up we are, from the top right down to the bottom. Those at the top are afraid of losing what they have, and so they cling on to it for dear life, refusing to share with those lower down, while those who are lower down are also afraid - afraid that for them things will never get better and never get easier. Everyone is thus afraid.

The economy is though wages driven. Give people more money and they will spend it, not on credit using money that does not even exist, getting themselves further into debt while the rich get even richer, but using real hard earned cash. Evidence shows that in those companies who have adopted a living wage, it has more than paid for itself through increased productivity, lower recruitment and training costs (for the staff are more easily retained) and less absenteeism.

I find it hard to believe that large employers at least really cannot afford this, and can't help feeling (and this is based on both personal experience and observation) that it is really more a case of them not wanting to afford it - they would rather spend money on pleasing shareholders and funding the bosses (for this read their own) extravagant lifestyles than on the staff who make the company profitable in the first place. When someone says to me that they got rich through hard work, I ask them whose? Perhaps it is time that the bosses began to ask themselves that same question.

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