ERODING THE MINIMUM WAGE

25 March 2012

In October 2012 the minimum wage for adults is raised from £6.08 to £6.19 an hour. That is a rise of below 2 percent, less than current inflation and perhaps less than it turns out to be in October. The unofficial benchmark of the living wage in Cornwall is £7.20 an hour.

The adult minimum wage began in April 1999. The National Minimum Wage: Low Pay Commission 2012 Report shows that from October 2001 to October 2006 it rose faster than prices and average wages; from 2006 it has risen significantly below them (pages 27-28).

The minimum wage for the young, those under twenty one, will not rise. For example, for 18-20 year olds it will remain at £4.98 an hour as recommended by the Low Pay Commission. The Commission says that the employment of young people is more sensitive in economic difficulties such as we currently have than that of adults (page 149).

I have discussed before the Tory hostility to it and the initial Libdem notion of a “Cornwall low” regionalised minimum wage. However, slippage in the wage began under Labour, who introduced it, before the present economic difficulties. The wage has been a godsend to working people, including many in Cornwall. It must not be cut in real value by a continuing failure to match prices and wages. It is important to people here and should be saved from longterm erosion.


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