New research from the Trades Union Congress has found that more than a third -34.4% - of employees in North East Fife earn less than the living wage, which is the highest percentage in the whole of Scotland. The figure for females is even worse, with 40.6% of female employees earning less than the living wage.
The living wage is calculated at £7.85 an hour, or £9.15 an hour in London, and is the amount that the Living Wage Foundation has determined is necessary to meet the basic cost of living in the UK. It compares with a minimum wage of £6.50 an hour (£5.13 for workers aged 18 to 20).
It is often assumed that North East Fife is an affluent area, but these figures show that a low wage economy is operating in North East Fife. It is clear that there is a massive gulf between the most affluent in North East Fife and those who are are stuck on low incomes, and it is a damning indictment on the policies being pursued by the Lib Dem-Tory coalition. It is terrible that so many people living in North East Fife are living in poverty, or dependent on in-work benefits.
The minimum wage is no longer sufficient to cover living costs, and a living wage can lift families out of poverty and reduce their reliance on public spending or private debt. Furthermore, employers have found that, when combined with a commitment to engage and develop their staff, it can make good business sense too. In wider terms, there can be further benefits, such as helping to combat inequality and cutting household debt."
The Labour Party is committed to increase the national minimum wage to £8 an hour by the end of the next Parliament in 2020, and giving a tax rebate to those companies that sign up to becoming living wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament.
The raising of the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and providing an incentive to companies to pay a living wage - as proposed by Labour - would make a huge difference to many people in North East Fife. It is essential that we move away from a low wage economy in North East Fife, and build an economy that works for working people.