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Reform Magazine | May 21, 2024

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Niall Cooper: Work hard, pay fair - Reform Magazine

Niall Cooper: Work hard, pay fair

The living wage is a spiritual issue

This month sees the fourth annual Living Wage Week (from 1 to 7 November) and the launch of a new phase in the UK’s living wage campaign. There has never been a more crucial moment to strengthen the movement for living wages.

The chancellor of the exchequer’s new premium minimum wage for over 25s – branded the “national living wage” – has created potential for huge confusion. While an increase in the national minimum wage to £7.20 an hour is welcome, a “living wage” it is not. The real living wage is significantly higher than Osborne’s and is due to be increased still further during Living Wage Week, where it will be calculated independently and pinned to the actual costs of living.

Like all great campaigns, the living wage is based on a very simple idea – a person should be paid enough to live decently and to adequately provide for their family. At its heart is an ethical argument for preventing in-work poverty and ensuring workers are not exploited. The living wage campaign began in East London in 2001 when parents found that, despite working multiple minimum wage jobs, they were struggling to make ends meet; they decided it was time to fight for a wage they could live off, instead of just survive. Since then, the campaign has won the accreditation of over 1,600 employers. This adds up to over £210m in extra pay and over 40,000 people lifted off the poverty line. It also means a strong challenge to the inequality entrenched in our economic system….

Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty. For more information about Living Wage Week, visit


This is an extract from the November 2015 edition of Reform.

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