For economic growth to mean anything it must benefit the general public as a whole and not just those at the top. That’s why it’s so worrying to see figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week revealing that when inflation is taken into account wages are actually falling. In fact, even ignoring inflation, once bonuses are taken out of the figures average earnings rose by the lowest level since records began and future wage forecasts are similarly grim.
It’s not hard to see how this has happened. While the Conservative-led Government talks up their record on unemployment, the shift towards zero-hours contracts and part-time work has caused massive levels of underemployment.
Falling real wages coupled with the Government’s failure to act on the rising costs of living has meant there are now 6.7m people in working families who live in poverty. The Government talks about getting tough on unemployment but they are busy creating a system where work no longer pays the bills.
The salaries of the top 10% of earners are now greater in total than the whole of the bottom 40% combined. Yet, instead of confronting the rising cost of living, David Cameron opted to give millionaires a tax cut and has refused to rule out a further one. That’s not good enough; government needs to represent the whole of British society and not just the elite.
In Crawley, high employment and low pay has been the reality for a long time and it’s a major reason why, since regaining control, Labour changed the rules to ensure 40% of new housing in the town would be affordable and are now working to improve the conditions of local employment.
Yet much more is needed and, if elected into Government next year, the Labour Party has committed to extend free child care provision, freeze electricity and gas bills, enhance the minimum wage, introduce the ‘Compulsory Jobs Guarantee’ to get young people into work and more besides.
Falling real wages show that UK residents are still living in hard times, it’s about time Government did something about it.