The minimum wage is £6.50 an hour.
The living wage is the hourly rate needed to cover the basic costs of living. It is currently over a pound an hour more than the minimum wage, at £7.85 an hour.
There is an obvious problem here – that people may be working full time on the minimum wage and still not be paid a wage considered enough to live on, by a considerable distance. This is now the situation for 22% of the UK workforce, and that percentage has been steadily rising since 2008.
This is a particular problem in the UK HE sector, with over 13,000 employees paid a poverty wage.
Once interest is taken into account, it also become obvious that the minimum wage is falling behind inflation, with the Resolution Foundation calculating that this leaves the minimum wage £1,010 lower a year than it was in 2008.
This forms part of a much broader economic malaise in Britain, where limited growth is being siphoned off into the hands of a very few whilst the majority see their real wages fall and the cost of living increase. What jobs are being created are often paid poverty wages, and wealth inequality is skyrocketing. The reflating of housing market bubble alongside turgid international conditions means even David Cameron is predicting another crash in 2015.
For a further reflection, Wolfgang Streek’s essay ‘How Will Capitalism End?’, on the secular crisis of capitalism since 2008, is a good place to begin understanding the wider context.