Rising above the minimum….
If the reports in The Independent that Labour will include in its manifesto a committment to raise the minimum wage are true then they are to be welcomed. This is not just because such a rise is desperately needed but also because it is a tacit admission that an incomes and wages policy is what is needed to strike serious blows against inequality.
Predictably, the CBI have warned that a rise would be a blow against ‘job creation’. We should reject this attempt at economic blackmail; what the CBI is really saying is that their members do not want to pay more and if the government raises the wage they will stop creating jobs to increase their profit margins. Funny how the members of the CBI can afford the pay of their executives but not of lower paid workers.
In reality, if there is a criticism to be made of these proposals it is simply that they do not go far enough. Yesterday, the Marmot Review found that poverty starts affecting life chances right from the start of life:
Low birth-weight babies and children whose mothers suffer from postnatal depression are likely to do badly at school, while children who are read to every day and have a regular bed time by the age of three, are likely to do better.
In conclusion it called for the establishment of a new minimum income for healthy living. I support this call in a modified form; in fact, what needs to be done is that the minimum income and large swathes of benefits be rolled into a guaranteed ‘Citizens Income’ where the state guarantees every single citizen a certain wage. This would simplify the benefits system and have the benefit of pushing up wages naturally; savings would be made in the administration of benefits and this would strike a real blow against inequality. Labour should not be cowed by the likes of the CBI and should marshall the full force of the state against inequality. This could be Labour’s next ‘big idea’ and it could transform as many lives as the welfare state…..