Depending on who exactly you ask and where exactly you live, a living wage in the UK is £9 -£10.55
The minimum wage in the UK for people over 25, is £8.21 per hour. The government website tells us ‘An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £3.90.’ https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates – There are clearly working people in the UK not earning the minimum wage.
So, first up, it’s important to acknowledge that people under 25 get a minimum wage that isn’t the same as everyone else’s and is a long way short of the living wage. Self employed people can’t (speaking from experience) always earn minimum wage and as companies seem ever more inclined to turn employees into self employed freelancers, that wage pressure increases.
How is the living wage calculated? According to https://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation “MIS asks groups to identify what people need to be able to afford as a minimum. This is fed into a calculation of what someone needs to earn as a full-time salary, which is then converted to an hourly rate.”
The first obvious point to make is that the living wage is based on the idea of the minimum needed to live – so the minimum wage set by government falls short of that for everyone – with massive implications – and for the under 25s to a degree that is alarming. Many people are not earning enough to live on, with all that this implies for their quality of life and their scope to choose. Also, if you can’t work full time – caring commitments, poor health etc, you probably can’t earn enough to live on, because that hourly rate depends on the assumption that you are able to work full time. If you’re on a zero hour contract, you may well not be working full time every week.
What people need to be able to afford as a minimum will not allow you to buy organic food – which is always more expensive. It won’t allow you to always pick out the more expensive fair trade and plastic free options. For this money, you will not be able to afford a state of the art electric car easily. You may have no choice but to buy clothes that aren’t so good for the environment. Things that will last longer and are more efficient may well be out of your price range. A living wage is not a green wage, it is not enough money to be able to make all the best ethical choices and still live.
If we want to pursue a green agenda, it is absolutely necessary not to have people priced out in this way. Environmental justice requires social justice. You can’t pay over the odds for greener goods if your income only covers the basics, or doesn’t even stretch that far.
I’ve been looking online to see if anyone has calculated the minimum wage for affording to live greenly – I’ve not found anything. If you know of any good sources, please leave comments.