Hardly a week seems to go by without news of a new challenge facing the poorest in Britain's. This week we were told that pay for the bottom tenth of workers grew by a miserable 0.1%
over the last year. This meagre rise, when inflation is running at 5%, constitutes a hefty pay cut in real terms. The struggle to maintain living standards in the face of inflation has become a problem for all but the very highest paid. A fifth of Britain's workforce earns less than a Living Wage - defined as the minimum required for housing, food and other basic needs.
Low pay it is having a deeply damaging effect on the lives of children in Britain. Six in 10 children growing up in a poor household have at least one parent in work. These children, whose parents, according to UNICEF, 'often work long hours or work several jobs to makes ends meet', face a long list of disadvantages: greater risk of obesity, heart disease and mental health problems.
But not everyone's children face austerity this Christmas. In a month's time, when many people will be trying to enjoy their turkey while battling worries about January's credit card bills, Britain's top executives will once again be basking in another year of double-digit pay rises. These people, whose total remuneration has risen by 49% in the last year and 4000% since the 1980s, 'earned' these rises despite most companies in the FTSE 100 losing share value this year. It is no wonder people are angry enough to occupy parts of our cities.
To make matters worse, hard hit taxpayers are subsidising FTSE 100 corporations who pay poverty wages because their lowest paid workers have their wages topped up by tax credits. In a time of widespread government cuts one would think that companies in the FTSE 100 should be paying their workers Living Wages rather than extracting subsidies from the treasury.
The last 30 years has seen plenty of economic growth in Britain but the rewards have been increasingly unevenly distributed. The sad fact is that things are set to get worse. By 2020 the ratio between top executive pay and the national median wage is anticipated to grow to 214:1. Child poverty is predicted to increase by 11% in the next three years. Britain's best paid bosses as well as the investors in their companies must start taking low pay seriously. The British public simply won't stand for many more Christmases like this one.