Over 30,000 workers in the capital who are paid less than the London Living Wage could see their pay rise by up to £400 a year if their employers decided to sign up to the new £8.80 an hour rate, proposed by the London Living Wage Foundation.
The rate is calculated according to the basic cost of living in London and gives workers almost £2.50 an hour more than the National Minimum Wage. Subscribing to the scheme is not mandatory but is encouraged by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
In an announcement made on Monday, marking the beginning of ‘Living Wage Week’, Johnson said: “Paying the London Living Wage ensures hard working Londoners are helped to make ends meet. It is extremely heartening to see major new companies signed up this year but we need more converts.”
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the average pay for unskilled workers in London is £7.50 an hour, while a report by Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion found that 21% of London workers are paid below the London Living Wage.
However, many people living along the East London Line, in what are considered some of the most deprived boroughs in the country, feel not enough is being done. With the cost of living in London exceeding income growth, many wish the improvement was being felt by everyone.
Shane, 31, an education consultant living in Lewisham said: “It’s good that it is in place, but I think I would struggle to live on that much.”
Amy, 28, a part time shop assistant from Catford, agreed: “The rise is not enough for London. Everything is going up except wages.”
Stuart, 60, a teacher from Blackheath adds: “I have four children and they are really struggling with buying property and the rents are extortionate. It would have been better if it was raised by at least 50p or more.”
Civil society groups like the Living Wage Foundation and Citizens UK argue that firms should pay the living wage rate to help employees cope with rising bills and energy costs. Living Wage Foundation claims that wages have declined by 13% since 2008. They argue that if basic pay levels were higher on average, the state would save a fortune in benefits.
The advantage of paying the living wage can also be felt by businesses. Marianne Fallon, head of corporate affairs at accountancy firm KPMG, which has signed up to the campaign, found “better staff performances and motivation,” as a result of the introduction of the living wage.
Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation said: “The Living Wage has become a must-have badge of honour for employers. By looking out for the Living Wage badge you can now choose to support businesses that are doing the right thing.”