Sunday 8th March marks the 120th anniversary of the reporting of the first Living Wage agreement by The London County Council. This was the first recording of a London standard wage level being established to pay people above the deemed ‘poverty line’. A lot has changed since 1895, not only is the value of £1 equivalent to £99.13 today, but the way we do business has changed a lot too. Mike Kelly, head of Living Wage at KPMG, highlights that there is a lot more to do and what businesses can learn from history. He said:
“The 120th anniversary of the Living Wage is celebration to mark a great socially conscious business cause. The London Living Wage in 1895 was 24 shillings for men and 8 shillings for women but in the 21st century we’ve recognised the right to equal pay and today the London Living wage is £9.15 per hour today. The root of the agreement on the rate included engagement with social reformers, unions and the Council; which still exists today, though a lot more still needs to be done.
“For far too long low income households have been struggling to make ends meet and for young people who are trapped in low paid jobs, with little prospects, it’s an even bleaker situation. The fact remains that more than five million people are earning less than they need to live on. Too many families still struggle to afford the basics, meaning we face a scenario that, in 2015, should have long been consigned to the footnotes of history.
“Marking the 120th anniversary is the perfect opportunity for employers to consider whether they can join the growing list of businesses paying a Living Wage. It may not be possible or practical for everyone, but all organisations need to do what they can to address the problem of low pay. Of course, change cannot happen instantly, but making an initial assessment is an important first step. In 1895 they introduced a positive change in their business model and reported on the benefits generated.
“Business and government need to work together as we are in danger of creating a ‘lost generation’ of low paid youth workers in working poverty. It’s time to take responsibility to ensure that staff and suppliers receive a fair wage.”