Rachel Cable explains what employers in Wales need to do in order to tackle poverty
Today, in 2018, nearly a quarter of people living in Wales are living in poverty. This is not acceptable, nor is it inevitable. What makes this even worse is that this figure has remained largely unchanged for a decade – we are not making progress. Shockingly, over half of the people living in poverty in Wales today are in work – which means that poverty is often harder to see. Many still assume that if you’ve got a job you can afford to pay your bills, buy food and still have a little left over to meet a friend or buy someone a birthday present – to be an active member of society – but for thousands of people across Wales this is simply not true. We have seen an alarming rise in in-work poverty during recent years, and it is time for government and business to work together to change this.
In order for work to be a route out of poverty, workers must be paid at least the real Living Wage. The new real Living Wage announced today is £9 per hour outside of London. This real Living Wage is based on the actual cost of living (so how much it actually costs to pay bills and buy food etc), and today more than a fifth of workers in Wales are earning less than this rate. More women than men are living in poverty, and we know that women are more likely than men to be paid less than the real Living Wage. Women are consistently over represented in low paid, part time, insecure and temporary work. The true extent of women’s poverty could be hidden, as poverty is measured at the household level – on the assumption that resources and income are shared equally, which we know is not always the case.
Paying the real Living Wage is a tangible, important way to help lift people out of poverty. This Living Wage week is an opportunity both to showcase those employers who have chosen to pay the Living Wage – and to call on more employers to do so, to help lift thousands more families out of poverty. Employers large and small across Wales have shown leadership on this issue, by becoming accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, and they should be celebrated – they include the Big Moose Coffee Company, Coleg Cambria, Knox and Wells, Maid 2 Clean, Neath Town Council, Brecon Carreg, as well as the Welsh Government. Another celebrated Living Wage employer is Burns Pet Nutrition in Kidwelly, and as John Burns, Founder and Managing Director of the company explains, there are many benefits to being a Living Wage Employer:
“Staff appreciate that we’re trying to look after them, so I think that we’re recognised as an employer that people would like to come and work for.”
Being paid the real Living Wage meant a lot to Danielle Whitburn who works at Burns Pet Nutrition:
“The Living Wage has been fantastic. It’s given me the chance to treat my children, take them away for weekend breaks and not have to think about bills and general life struggles.”
It’s clear that the real Living Wage works, and given the stubbornly high poverty levels in Wales, it is time for the Welsh Government to do more on this issue by incentivising better pay through grant funding and procurement. The public sector, the private sector and our universities should be demonstrating leadership on fair pay. It is simply unfathomable that some of Wales’ biggest employers do not pay the real Living Wage.
Oxfam is working to tackle poverty wherever we find it, and having more people paid the real Living Wage is an important step in tackling poverty in Wales. Work can only offer an effective route out of poverty if the income available is enough to cover the basic cost of living. Put simply, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Poverty restricts people’s choices. It is not right that working families are choosing between heating and eating.
Above all, poverty pay is not acceptable. In 2018, it’s high time for a change.
Find out more about the Living Wage in Wales at http://www.cynnalcymru.com/living-wage/.
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