Matthew Butcher argues, with Duncan Exley, that the Living Wage is the only way to reconcile the seemingly conflicting desires to end child poverty but also to decrease taxation.
Matthew Butcher is the media and communications officer for FairPensions
The British Social Attitude Survey, released yesterday, has thrown out a host of results that might well leave those on the left feeling dismayed.
Britons, it would appear, are becoming increasingly individualistic and less willing to pay higher taxes to support healthcare spending, education and protecting the environment. Has the time come to explore ways to help the poorest in society without increasing the amount of tax we have pay?
It should come as no surprise that people are becoming more protective of their money when the average income rose by only 0.4 per cent in the last year, well below inflation. Only yesterday we learnt that millions of people in this country and taking on short-term, high interest loans to see them through to pay day.
The problem that we face is not that people don’t recognise our country’s challenges nor that we don’t care about each other, but instead that people don’t feel like they are in a position to give any more to the taxman. An illustration of our empathy towards each other is the 82 per cent of people surveyed who think it is ‘very important’ to reduce child poverty in the UK.
The major reasons given in this year’s survey for child poverty in the UK are parents’ addictions (75 per cent) and parents’ unwillingness to work (63 per cent) while less than half of people think that low pay is a reason that children live in poverty.
The sad fact is that almost six out of ten children in poverty are living with at least one parent who does work. Research carried out by UNICEF earlier this year paints a bleak picture of life on low pay for parents. They are often forced to work such long hours to support their families that they hardly spend any time with their kids.
For these workers having a job doesn’t by any means guarantee an improvement in the quality of their lives.
Though a large chunk of these low paid employees work for the state, and would therefore benefit from more government spending, the majority, according to the Resolution Foundation, work for private companies.
It is these private companies, and in particular our biggest corporations, who should be footing the bill when everyone else is feeling the squeeze. This year we’ve been asking Britain’s biggest companies to pay their workers living wages.
Not only do Living Wages benefit the workers, their children and the companies but they also save the taxpayer from subsidising corporations through government tax credits that are required to boost the poverty wages of their lowest paid staff.
We should not be surprised that British public, who seem permanently beset by depressing economic news, aren’t willing to pay more tax. Instead we should be upping our pressure on the biggest corporations in the land to pay their way.
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• To end inequality without redistribution of wealth, we should pay a living wage – Duncan Exley, December 8th 2011
• Economic gloom is killing Britons’ sense of common interest – Anne Summers, December 7th 2011
• New video from the Fair Pay Network makes the case for a living wage – Alex Hern, November 28th 2011
• Citizens UK: “The Big Society is flawed if people have to work two jobs” – Peter Carrol, October 21st 2011
• Lifting the lid on low paid Britain – Lee Savage, 4th October 2011