Living wage could boost public finance by £3.2 billion

THE TUC last week published research showing that big savings — £3.2 billion — could be made by the public purse if the Britain’s 4.8 million low-paid workers received a pay rise and were paid the living wage.

Economic modelling carried out for the TUC by Howard Reed of Landman Economics suggests that the Treasury would receive an extra £2.1 billion from the increased tax and national insurance contributions (NIC) resulting from a nationwide living wage boost.

Similarly, if low earners across Britain were to see their wages rise to living wage rates — currently £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 elsewhere in the country — the research says that the Treasury would pay out £1.1 billion less in means-tested benefits and tax credits.

The research also includes estimates on how much the Treasury could save based on tax and benefits figures for the UK’s four nations, as well as England’s nine regions.

In the capital, for example, lifting Londoners out of poverty pay and onto the living wage (due to rise to £8.80 an hour next year), would see £408 million raised through extra taxes and national insurance contributions, and £200 million less paid out in benefits and tax credits. This would see a net benefit to the Treasury of £608 million.

Similarly, if hourly pay rates in the South West — where it’s estimated 452,000 people (a fifth of the workforce) currently earn less than the living wage — were to rise to £7.45 an hour, the public purse would gain £185 million in extra taxes. The Exchequer would also save £100 million in benefits and tax credits — giving a net saving of £285 million from across the region.

Increasing coverage of the living wage across the North East would see low-paid workers paying an additional £92.4 million in taxes. Here, where 213,000 workers (22 per cent of the region’s workforce) currently earn less than the living wage, there would be a £46 million benefit and tax credits saving — giving a total net saving of £139 million across the North East.

Commenting on the research, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Almost five million workers across the UK are being paid less than the living wage, and with in-work poverty growing, it’s not hard to see why so many families are struggling to make household budgets stretch to cover the cost of everyday essentials.

“The UK is in the midst of a living standards crisis, and while the economy is slowly starting to recover, ordinary people are a long way from feeling any benefit. Money is so tight that any unforeseen expenses — like a winter coat for the children or repairing a broken cooker — are forcing families to borrow just to keep their heads above water.

“Of course not every employer can afford to pay their staff the living wage, but many more can. Increasing the number of people across the UK who are paid at least the living wage would mean huge savings for the public purse in extra taxes paid and fewer benefits claimed.

“Britain is crying out for a pay rise — and there are real benefits that would come from a nationwide pay boost for the UK’s lowest paid workers.”