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I’m delighted to say that this week CDF is joining the Living Wage Foundation and hundreds of other Living Wage employers in celebrating Living Wage Week 2014.

From 2 – 8 November employers and employees alike are sharing their experiences of paying and being paid the Living Wage – a wage on which it is calculated that hard-working individuals and families are able to maintain a decent standard of living.

Whilst the week is ultimately a celebration of the Living Wage’s positive impact, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the fact that, despite being one of the most advanced economies in the world, poverty and deprivation continues to marginalise large portions of British society.

Let’s talk about wages

Compared to other cultures we Brits rarely seem to discuss our earnings beyond closed doors. This isn’t exactly a problem, but perhaps the time has come for a greater consideration of what we, as a collective, are actually earning.

The focus instead currently tends to be dominated by unemployment statistics, the present rate of which stands at 6%, having returned to its normal self after an extended high throughout the financial crisis of recent years.

This return to the status quo is, on the whole, a good news story; however, employment alone does not necessarily guarantee a happier and healthier population – we need fair wages to really improve our standard of living.

The trouble is that wages at the moment don’t seem to be playing ball. Since 2009 the growth in average weekly earnings has lagged well below the inflation rate, forcing more and more people to tighten their belts as the cost of living soars. This has led to a situation in which, for the first time, the majority of people in poverty in the UK are actually in paid work.

According to a recent report by the Resolution Foundation, one in five workers – nearly 5 million individuals in total – currently earns less than the Living Wage, a significant increase upon the previous year. This is a very worrying prospect. To make ends meet many of these low-paid workers may be forced to forgo vital components of a happy life, such as a healthy diet or an active social life. There’s also a danger that many will turn to high-cost credit vendors to cover any essential bills that their wages won’t cover, thus becoming trapped in an ever-increasing spiral of expensive debt.

What can be done about the low pay problem?

For the sake of those trapped on the lowest incomes, something needs to be done. In basic terms there are really two courses of action:

The first of these revolves around making it a little easier to manage life on a low income. This largely involves reducing the cost of living, allowing individuals and families to raise the standard of living without necessarily needing more cash. At CDF we’re keen to help achieve this. We therefore support the invaluable work of community groups, which we know, from our recent ‘Tailor-made’ research, offer extremely good value for money to participants and add enormous value to the local economy.

Also, through our membership of the Community Investment Coalition (CIC), we’re campaigning for fairer access to affordable finance across the UK. This work is vital in the fight against poverty.

The second course of action is to ensure that all workers are paid a fair wage that allows for a decent standard of living to be maintained. This starts with the Living Wage. It benefits workers enormously, affording them the opportunity for a better quality of life, but is also hugely beneficial to employers; research into a number of Living Wage employers shows it leads to reduced absenteeism rates whilst also enhancing organisations’ image and ability to attract the best workers.

In this Living Wage Week 2014 I would therefore like to call upon all organisations to consider what they can do for the lowest paid in British society. Can they make life more manageable for those in poverty? Can they give workers the opportunity to earn a Living Wage? Answering these questions is not always easy but by working together to do so as one community, hope remains that we really can start to change things.

For more information about Living Wage Week 2014 visit the Living Wage Week website.

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