They say that money can’t buy you happiness, and perhaps that’s true. But if you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, it definitely can’t. Low pay lurks under the surface of many of our headlines, from school children going hungry in the holidays to the crisis in mental health. Our research into Life on Low Pay has shown that over a quarter (27%) of people working full time who are paid less than the real Living Wage regularly skip meals, and nearly half (46%) felt that their low pay negatively affected their levels of anxiety. Surprised? Us neither.
At the Living Wage Foundation, we campaign for a real Living Wage to end to low pay. Ours is the only independently calculated wage rate that takes the cost of living into account; it’s currently set at £9.50 across the UK and – reflecting the higher cost of living in the capital – £10.85 in London. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘wait, hasn’t the government already introduced a living wage?’ you might be thinking of the ‘National Living Wage’. Its name is similar to ours, but the rates have some crucial differences – especially to the people earning them. The National Living Wage is set at a proportion of national income whereas the real Living Wage takes into account what employees and their families need to live and is updated annually in line with rising costs. The National Living Wage also only applies to those over the age of 23, whereas our rate applies to all workers over 18.
We at the Living Wage Foundation are part of a movement. The Living Wage campaign began in 2001, when communities in East London came together and realised that they were all facing the same problem: low pay. In the 20 years since, we’ve built a movement of nearly 8,000 employers across the whole of the UK who voluntarily go above and beyond the government minimum to pay their workers a real Living Wage.
If you know anything about Lucy & Yak (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably do), you won’t be surprised to hear that they’re one of our Living Wage champions. Not only have they chosen to prioritise the welfare of their UK employees in a sector in which 44.9% of jobs are low paid, they’re also championing a liveable wage by vetting all their partner suppliers abroad, ensuring that they too pay a living wage to their staff. Big up Lucy & Yak!
The Living Wage campaign has come on in leaps and bounds since its beginnings in 2001, but there’s still a way to go. There are 5.5 million people in the UK today earning less than the real Living Wage.
And the burden of low pay is not distributed equally. Low pay is a race issue and it’s a gender issue too – if you’re Black, you’re 50% more likely to earn below the Living Wage than a white worker, while women are more likely than men to earn below the Living Wage in 14 out of the UK’s 15 lowest paying sectors.
Things can change – and for people on low pay, they need to. So, if you want to support the movement for a real Living Wage then get involved. We need people like you to make your voices heard in the fight against low pay. To keep on supporting Living Wage champions like Lucy & Yak. To make a real Living Wage a reality for working people. We’re a movement, and that’s the way we end low pay: together.
- Maisie Caro, from the Living Wage Foundation.