A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has found that the minimum cost of living is 5% higher now than it was in 2010.
Attributing this increase to the cuts made to childcare assistance and the government’s freeze on child benefits, the JRF’s report, ‘A minimum income standard for the UK in 2011’ (See link below for full report) details the required weekly and yearly budgets in order for families to live to an acceptable standard.
While, this idea of ‘an acceptable standard’ may be puzzling to many, proposing an arguably arbitrary line of sufficiency, the JRF claim to have consulted focus groups since 2008 in order to ascertain a benchmark for the purpose of their report.
Perhaps most importantly this has led the JRF to suggest that there is a large gap between the current national minimum wage, £5.93, and the required minimum income standard. Outlining these findings the report stated that, a single person would need to earn £7.67 an hour to survive, a couple working full time with two children would require £9.41 an hour and a single parent £9.33.
Currently, the government fills this gap between the minimum wage and a reasonable living standard with working tax credits. However, the report’s author, Donald Hirsch, believes an increase in the minimum wage could reduce reliance on this support, prevent in-work poverty and allow state subsidies to focus on ‘the extra cost of feeding a family’.
This would certainly be welcomed. Despite being someone who believes that the minimum wage is far from idyllic, favouring the notion of prioritarianism over sufficiency, it is a worthwhile necessary evil and every effort should be made to ensure that this wage guarantees fairness and ensures the financial survival of low-paid workers.
At the moment this is clearly not the case, far too often the cost of living is subject to levels of inflation that contrast massively with the snail paced increases to the minimum wage. Hopefully, this JRF report will illustrate to the government the need to increase this wage and give individuals the best chance possible in these times of seemingly worsening hardship.
For the full report- Hirsch, D, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation – http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/minimum-income-standard-uk-2011