Labour’s policy review considered how to tackle some of our biggest political challenges. We asked a panel of experts whether its external commissions make the grade…
What it says:
Working poverty is a national challenge. Over 250,000 people do not receive the minimum wage and its value has fallen by 5 per cent since 2010. Low Pay: The Nation’s Challenge by Alan Buckle endorses a more empowered Low Pay Commission to investigate the causes and consequences of low pay and outline solutions. It recommends using a ‘stretching target’ to ensure that the minimum wage increases faster than median earnings, along with better enforcement in workplaces. Companies would also be required to disclose their remuneration reports to ensure greater transparency and more would be encouraged to become living wage employers.
Katie Schmuecker (Joseph Rowntree Foundation):
“Work fails to offer a route out of poverty for too many families. Half the people experiencing poverty in the UK living in a household where someone works, while the cost of essential goods and services is rising much faster than wages. The review’s focus on enforcing the minimum wage is welcome; JRF research demonstrates the extent of exploitation in some sectors. The procurement recommendations are important too, and a way for government to show real leadership on extending coverage of the living wage. But there was room to be more radical here: setting out steps to extend the approach to the NHS and local government would have been bolder. This would bring savings to the Treasury in increased income tax revenue and reduced in-work benefit payments, which could be channelled back into funding those services.
The review strikes a fine balance in relation to the minimum wage itself, recognising that increased pay must go hand-in-hand with increased productivity. The established process for setting the minimum wage is rooted in partnership between employers, unions and government and a thorough assessment of evidence. These are important features that must be protected. Establishing the minimum wage was a breakthrough in the fight against poverty, but it will be undermined if the rate becomes subject to political whim.
Perhaps the biggest challenge remaining is poverty, and low pay is just one element. The number of hours worked, job security and opportunities to progress to a better job all matter too. What we need is a strategy to reduce poverty and all its causes.”
This article originally appeared as part of a larger feature ‘Review of the Reviews’, collated by Rebecca Staddon, in the Winter edition of the Fabian Review. Look out for our other scorecards, which will be republished on the Fabian Review Online soon.