Boris must do more to help workers out of poverty

Paying a living wage is an economic necessity if London is to compete globally.

Paying a living wage is an economic necessity if London is to compete globally

A rise in the London Living Wage is great news for those lucky enough to work for living wage employers but for the increasing number who don’t, it will offer little help.

While I of course welcome the increase in London’s Living Wage to £9.15 an hour, the fact that living wage staff are still struggling to cope with the growing cost of living illustrates the scale of the challenge facing those who do not yet earn a living wage.

With costs for rent, food, fuel, childcare and fares outstripping wages, it is vital that people are given a wage which it is possible to survive on- anything less is just poverty pay.

The size of the increase – at over 4 per cent – which is calculated on cost of living also shows how rapidly wages in general are falling behind the cost of basics.

The depressing fact is that in-work poverty has increased in London over recent years. The number of jobs paying less than the London Living Wage jumped from 420,000 in 2007 to 600,000 in 2012. That means not only an increase in terms of total numbers but also as a proportion of all jobs in London, from 13 per cent to 17 per cent.

In broader terms we have also seen a drop in average pay across the capital. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in real terms average pay reached a high of £700 a week in 2009, and this dropped to £613 a week by 2013. This shows a fall of £87 a week in real earnings for the average Londoner.

Whilst these amounts are well in excess of what LLW would earn you, they help to illustrate the worrying trend of prices rising at the same time as wages are falling.

The message is clear: there is a lot more the Mayor and his colleagues in Government should be doing to encourage employers to pay London Living Wage and stamp out poverty pay in the capital and beyond.

Paying a living wage is not just an ethical decision but an economic necessity if London is going to compete globally. Employers who pay a living wage not only save the taxpayer money on the benefits bill, they also provide a boost to the London economy, allowing people to live properly and the capital to grow.

Boris Johnson likes grand statements about his legacy but leaving London with more people stuck on poverty pay than when he came to power is one of the most basic failures of a Mayor, and something he should be deeply ashamed of.

Fiona Twycross is a Labour Londonwide Assembly member

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