What's in a minimum?

Submitted by cathy n on 18 July, 2008 - 1:46

Recent research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that around £13,400 a year is required to maintain a minimum standard of living. The Treasury currently estimates the minimum acceptable income as no less then 60% of the median wage. The question is "what is a minimum standard of living?"
For Brown and Darling it may just mean being able to house, feed and get yourself to work every day but for those surveyed it means more than this. We live in a world where the basic measure of 'liveability' is set at the level of 'reproduction' - that is, the ability to 'reproduce' a work force on a daily and generational basis. Ideally, the capitalist class would maximise their profits by only handing over enough money to enable workers to feed, rest and wash ourselves - and perhaps have a few kids. The results from the Joseph Rowntree study show that the minimum standard of living depends upon an income consistently in excess of the 60% line.
£13,400 isn't going to buy you a brand new car, two holidays a year, designer labels and vintage wine. It's not - as some will surely portray it - a demand from an increasingly greedy, 'aspirational' layer of society. This level of individual income is required to live a life that involves more than the daily slog of work, leaves you with enough money to have a minimal life outside of work.
These results may explain the recent increase in the number of workers putting in more than 48 hours a week. From 2007 to 2008 around 180,000 more of us worked in excess of 48 hours. That's a total of 3.25 million workers or 13% of the entire workforce. The current minimum wage stands at £5.52 for workers over 22 years of age. If you worked 48 hours a week, that translates into £13,772 a year - just a few hundred pounds over the bare minimum.
The recent leaps in living costs (food, fuel and housing), the credit crunch and other economic factors mean that the bare minimum is increasingly difficult to achieve - and not just for those on the minimum wage.

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