Exclusive: Poll shows public want Living Wage to be the legal minimum – even if it costs jobs

22nd February, 2013 8:29 am

The Living Wage has been one of the key tenets of Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party, and was one of his keynote policies during the leadership contest. But Miliband has always argued that the Living Wage should be different from the minimum wage – and the Resolution Foundation/IPPR agreed. I still thought that the minimum wage should be increased to a Living Wage level. Others agreed. But today exclusive polling for LabourList carried out by Survation (as part of the Unions21 Fair Work Commission) shows widespread support for a far higher Minimum Wage – even if it causes job losses.

The poll of 1004 employed people shows that 71% of Labour voters, 66% of Lib Dems and even 44% of Tories (60% overall) say we should increase the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage – and that the government should make the Living Wage the legal minimum. There is majority support for such a move across all regions of the country and all social class groups. Interestingly, the group who most agree that a Living Wage is needed (even if it costs jobs) are the D/E social class group – working class voters who are more likely to be paid the minimum wage, and know how hard it is to live on the poverty line.

The argument against the Living Wage becoming the legal floor is that it would cost jobs – which is exactly what was said about the Minimum Wage, and it didn’t happen then. However even if that is the case, the public still think poverty wages are something that should be a thing of the past.

The British people overwhelmingly support moving to a mandatory Living Wage, and an end to poverty wages in this country. They are far more radical than our politicians.

The tables for the poll can be seen here, and was part of the Unions21 Fair Work Commission. Further polling will be released with the first report of the Commission on March 8th. To attend click here.

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  • You’d think that the Government would be keen for companies to take up where Working Tax Credit currently resides.

    A 28 year old working 35 hours a week at the minimum wage would currently get around £715 a year in WTC – increase their wage to the suggested £7.50 and there is no cost to the taxpayer, whilst the worker has more in their pocket to spend and save.

    The only possible opposition to this must be from business, who are keen to have the taxpayer continue to subisidise their labour force. The NMW didn’t cost jobs and neither will the Living Wage.

    • It didn’t cost jobs because about 98% of workers were paid above the minimum wage anyway. Now 94% of workers would be affected, in a much worse economy, there would most definitely be job losses. Also youth unemployment would increase and we would be unable to gain experience for jobs. Unless you plan to invest this money saved into schemes to give everyone work at at least the living wage, I suggest you desist.

  • This is a step in the right direction….Labour needs to put space between themselves and the other parties….from talking to people i know and various online forums, i would say that a move to the left will not only benefit the party but the country as a whole

  • Giving money to people who spend it domestically doesn’t cost jobs, it creates them However, this government seems more keen on the old Moneterist idea that a significant level of unemployment and low wages ensure a ‘competitive’ workforce; that is to say one that is compliant to the point of servitude.

  • This is excellent, and consensus is being reached.

    I do have concerns about job losses – times were much better for employers when the NMW was introduced. They could absorb costs back then, but now many can’t. But maybe there’s an answer to that. The Living Wage will reduce the welfare bill by £2bn. Let’s spend that money on giving employers a cut in their National Insurance contributions, so that their costs are kept affordable.

    £2bn will see only a relatively small tax cut for employers, but it will mitigate the negative impact of LW on them proving that we’re on the side of SME’s too – whilst still helping their workforce maintain a basic standard of living.

    • Jonathan,

      Interesting notion to use the £2 billion saved to employer’s NI. It would be also be interesting to see a costing on whether we could make the first 20 or so employees EmpNI free for all existing SMEs.

    • That £2bn would not be available. It would have to be used to give the people made redundant by this move benefits. As around 6% of people earn under this living wage, around half, or 3% would lose their jobs. We should be encouraging these people to work to help the economy, not kicking them onto the street. Also youth unemployment is very high as it is, but you want to take away people’s ability to work on the cheap for experience? Thanks for damning yet another generation, we expect nothing else…

    • rekrab

      Errr! so lets continue feeding the masses horse meat and poor dietary foods while making sure those failings schools remain, well failing and the housing undermined so those at the top have a constant flow of throw away humans who are told “don’t forget to grovel”

    • TomFairfax

      The whole point was demonstrated several centuries ago in Speenhamland.

      if you top up a salary on the rates/tax, then the employer won’t provide competitive pay and instead let the taxpayer take up the slack. Even the Tories should be made to struggle to explain that type of unfocussed subsidy for uncompetitive businesses. I would suggest though that SmEs are exempted to balance out the advantages that big business tends to get from government generally.

  • Richard Darlington

    The problem with raising the National Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage is that economic modeling suggests 160,000 people could lose their jobs and another 300,000 young people with low or no qualifications might not be able to get a job. See page 27-28 of this IPPR/Resolution Foundation report: http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/Beyond_the_Bottom_Line_-_FINAL.pdf

  • Robert_Eve

    What total bollox.

  • charles.ward

    I wonder what the figures would be for the unemployed (who may be having trouble finding employers willing to pay them the current minimum wage).

    • MonkeyBot5000

      They might tell you that paying people at the bottom more money is the most efficient way to boost spending in the economy and drive growth.

  • Let’s hope that when/if it happens somebody does something to stop the fat cat landlords upping rent in line with this.

  • Thanks to the coalitions tax policies the lowest paid are now better off than under the last government. But things can be improved. I agree that a “living wage” should be the target for any business with staff over 21yrs of age that are suitably qualified. Happier staff will result.

    Best way to get to £7.50ph? Reduce NI contributions for employers. Scrap more red tape. Make it neutral. Then we don’t get yet more inflationary pressure and we get a better off workforce.

    Governments don’t create jobs unless they stupidly fill the state with non jobs. They provide the conditions to help employers create jobs.

    So the best way forward is to cut taxes for employers and employees

    My guess is that this reality won’t be published on Labourlist

  • TomFairfax

    Moody’s just downgraded UK. So predictable it beggars belief that GO has been harping on about his policies keeping the UK triple A rated when only GO or Mad McMad hasn’t seen this coming.

  • With the best will in the world, and irrespective of the merits of the policy, I’m not sure that a poll which says the public is in favour is very meaningful.

    It is what my good colleague Hopi Sen calls “would you like a pony” polling.

  • markfergusonuk

    True, but that’s taken into account in the question – and those most likely to be hit by this (DE) are more likely to support it!

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