Mainstream media is commenting upon details of a report that confirms what many people widely suspected: that the number of people on the minimum wage in Britain is massive – 22% of the workforce. Also, that the minimum wage is not a ‘stepping stone’, but for many a permanent fixture, a prison of sustained impoverishment that trap them for years, never to find an exit. And add in the official figures of the unemployed – whether on benefits or not – and the total poor rises to more than one third of the country’s workforce. Meanwhile stats show (see footnote below) that Britain’s south-east region has the greatest number of toffs in Europe, swamping the towns there with their anti-poor rhetoric…
The report by the Resolution Foundation highlights how almost one in four minimum wage employees who have been in work over the last five years have been stuck on the minimum rate for the entire time; also, that the UK has among the highest proportion of full-time low-paid workers across the OECD.
The minimum wage of £6.50 per hour (or less for those under 18 years of age) is breadline money. Even if the recipient is able to find work of more than 16 hours a week and so get the Government top up, it is only ever enough to scrape by, if that. Rent has to be paid, heating bills too, and food bought. After that, there is nothing left. For the lucky ones they can just about survive week to week. But for many there are debts to be paid too and unforeseen bills to take of, so leading to more debts.
This is the true face of modern Britain. Go to any major city and you will see it on the housing estates. Go to any small town and you will see it there too. In the countryside the same poverty is there, but less obvious.
And the work undertaken by those on the minimum wage is predictably dreary, monotonous, degrading and – ultimately – dehumanising. It is unskilled, often on production lines, or in warehouses, or at shopping counters, or in care homes. The people who work in these jobs run the country, but are treated by the media and the politicians and the wealthy with contempt. In a just world these people should be paid the same as everyone else, for their work is hard and soul-destroying.
Footnote: this sentence is a satirical comment on the poor choice of language by Britain’s Defence Minister Michael Fallon in reference to continental Europeans working in Britain. Elsewhere, journalist Stuart Jeffries suggests a better use of terms. Of course it’s a huge generalisation to suggest that the whole of the south-east of England is being swamped by toffs – the reality is they swamped England’s more liveable towns and countryside over centuries, largely as a result of oppressing the poor, many of whom are now forced to steal and beg to stave off hunger.