What happens if you’re working a full time job but still can’t pay the bills? Sadly, living in the city of London, this is the reality for many of our neighbours.
A recent study completed by Queen Mary’s College (a London university located very close to us here in Tower Hamlets) has revealed that one-fifth of all jobs in London pay less than the suggested living wage.
The “Living Wage” is a recommended wage that advocates believe is necessary for families to afford the essentials of life. The living wage in London is £8.55 per hour, while the legally required minimum wage is £6.19. This disparity in pay between the legal requirements and the pay necessary survive in the city, leaves many families in poverty despite having parents who work full-time or have multiple jobs.
The living wage came from a campaign started over a decade ago by TELCO, an East London community organization that Liz and I have worked with on other local issues. They have successfully gotten London’s mayor and a number of major businesses on board, but the living wage is still a suggestion rather than a requirement.
This issue is particularly key in our local community in Shadwell, which has high rates of poverty, but also has a high rate of employment. Many of the people living around us are not sitting around living off of government benefits; it is common for people to work long and hard hours, but still not stay above the poverty line and require public assistance. Unfortunately, these economic hardships affect the community in many ways, making home life stressful and preventing people from engaging with their neighbours and in their larger community because they must spend too much time working.