Why Living Wage Places can support more fulfilling work

March 6, 2019

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By Douglas White, Head of Advocacy, Carnegie UK Trust

Access to paid employment for as many working age people as possible has long been a central plank of the social and economic policies of governments across the UK. For decades following the Second World War paid work was widely understood to be the most effective route out of poverty.

The availability of work still matters – a lot. But today, when the number of people in work in the UK is at record high, the quality and type of work that people are experiencing is under huge scrutiny. There are many reasons for this – increased job insecurity, progression (or lack of), inequality and the changing nature of work in the digital age.

However, one of the most critical issues is the question of pay. With wage stagnation a major contributor, we have recently experienced the worst decade for living standards in 200 years and despite a recent uptick, earnings are less now than before the financial crisis 10 years ago. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculates that more than 4 million workers in the UK are living in poverty – and the number is on the rise.

So improving pay really matters, which is why the work of the Living Wage Foundation and Living Wage Scotland is so important, to support and encourage employers to pay their staff the real Living Wage. Nearly 5,000 employers around the UK are signed up to the accreditation scheme, including an impressive 1,300 in Scotland.

There remains significant work to do. While many of the drivers, incentives and challenges to improving pay sit at national policy level, within industrial sectors or in individual firms there is also a critical place-based dimension.

Our individual and collective wellbeing is hugely shaped by the places where we live and work. Place affects our education, our employment opportunities, our relationships and our environment.  In terms of pay, the characteristics of local labour markets and economies can impact significantly on the wages that workers receive.

Now with the launch of Making Living Wage Places – and the announcement of Dundee as the UK’s first Living Wage City – there is an opportunity to harness the power of place, involving local employers, communities and consumers to help extend the Living Wage to more workers and lift more people out of low pay.

Living Wage Places must establish an action group of major local employers and agree an ambitious action plan to spread the uptake of the Living Wage in their area. This approach aligns with the international evidence of how local, placed-based transformation can come about – local leaders driving change, tackling economic challenges, supporting cross-sector collaboration and making a long-term commitment.

At the Carnegie UK Trust we’ve been proud to support the Living Wage Foundation and Living Wage Scotland as they’ve scoped and launched this important new initiative – and we look forward to the impact it will bring in tackling low pay and improving the quality of work for people across the UK.