By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
On Tuesday afternoon England and Nottinghamshire cricketer Stuart Broad sparked outrage by Tweeting about the so-called privileged position of people on the minimum wage in Britain. The problem with statistics, as Zoe Williams of the Guardian soon pointed out, is that you can use stats to prove anything if you’re willing to haplessly discount good sense and judgement; the minimum wage in Gabon is £3,672 but a suburban one-bedroom flat there is £63 a month. “Money doesn’t mean anything out of context: its value is determined by what you can buy with it. Most people figure this out by the age of about seven.”
He has since apologised, but his error in judgement highlights a more general oversight in regards to the minimum wage. You see, the minimum wage shouldn’t be an hourly rate that employers are proud to pay. It is the minimum level, a sustenance level. Along with zero-hour contracts it is a statutory abuse of British labour that has resulted in more working households living in poverty than non-working ones. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation low pay and part-time work has prompted an unprecedented fall in living standards in the last decade; stay humble Britain!
As Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, noted, the nature of poverty in Britain is changing. “The idea of ‘making work pay’ increasingly sounds like an empty slogan to the millions of people who are hard-pressed and working hard, often in two or three jobs, and struggling to make a living”. The reality of pay in Britain is that the number of people paid below a ‘living wage’ has increased by more than 400,000 in the last 12 months, left to battle the soaring price of everyday items (food costs 44 per cent more than in 2005, energy costs have more than doubled and housing prices have increased at one and a half times the speed of wages) whilst income levels stagnate.
The result is that child poverty is on the increase. The Living Wage Commission found that two-thirds of children in poverty live in a household where an adult works which makes them less likely to achieve at an early state in the early education system than their peers. Diet and food poverty has risen on the back of rising food prices and fuel poverty means low paid workers increasingly have to go cold and hungry during the winter. Debt is spiralling, the lack of family time is tearing families apart and over 900,000 adults and children have received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163 per cent rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year.
These reasons, among many others, highlight why it is becoming increasingly difficult for people earning the minimum wage to feel humble. Visiting food banks isn’t a humbling experience, nor is it a humbling feeling being plunged into debt or being too poor to turn the heating on at night. Of course, I wouldn’t expect Stuart Broad to know about that; he earns millions of pounds a year in match fees and sponsorship. But his comments are worryingly representative of a vindictive political rhetoric against the working class. The UK ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, by the way, perhaps that’s worth a Tweet next time Broady?