What is a Real Job?

21 Mar

The Budget was delivered by Chancellor of the Exchequer this week and I saw Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander on Question Time last night. Such quaint and historical names for finance ministers. Both men were banging on about how many jobs were created by the coalition government in the last four years. The main trouble with these figures is that the vast majority of these jobs do not pay a living wage. The coalition spokespeople bang on about how a job is a job. But with many jobs being part-time, on zero hours contracts or other loopholes allowing employers to pay a small fraction of a living wage, how can we regard them as being proper jobs?

We already have a measure of what the minimum wage should be, £6:31 per hour. It is estimated that a living wage should be £8:80 ph in London and £7:65 elsewhere. Prosecutions for failing to meet the current level of minimum wage are almost zero. In fact the instructions appear to be not to prosecute. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage.

‘The approach previously taken by HMRC was not to pursue criminal prosecutions as enforcement powers and penalty notices available under the legislation have in the past been seen to provide sufficient sanction. However, upon investigating employers found to be paying less than the minimum wage, approximately 45,000 since the act came into force, it has been discovered that a small number of employers failed to comply with the penalties enforced. As a result of this research HMRC reviewed its default position of non-prosecution.’ (Solicitor’s site, 2007, bold done by me. This figure is way too low now, and prosecutions are virtually unknown)

The result is that bad employers are only forced to change in very rare cases where there is pressure from the Trades Unions in regulated industries. Outside of these, well, forget it.

Real Jobs

What I suggest is quite simple. We take a living wage to be 40 hours per week at the minimum wage. 40 x £6:31 = £252:40 per week. Let us call this a Real Job. If a job pays less than that, it is regarded as a percentage of a job, so £126:20 would be 50% of a job. It would be more accurate if the improved minimum wage were used.

With this simple measure it would be possible to determine the true value of the government ‘Jobs’. With a cost of living crisis affecting many poor families to the extent that they are having to make use of food banks, to suggest that because they have one earner on 15% of a Real Job they are fully employed is an added insult. I have nothing but contempt for politicians who spin and dissemble when the poor are going hungry in a supposedly civilised country. Shame on you.


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