Support for ‘living wage’ on the increase, poll shows

More than three-quarters of the public support setting a ‘living wage’ as the country’s minimum wage level, according to an opinion poll.

Support for ‘living wage’ on the increase, poll shows

The key findings in the poll show that 86% agree that the minimum wage should be increased, up from 84% last year and 65% in 2010, while 77% agree that it should be the same as a living wage.

It also found that 86% agree that the Government should do more to prevent the use of low-hours contracts.

The poll was conducted in June among a sample of 1,000 people aged 16 and over by market research company, Behaviour & Attitudes on behalf of the independent think tank, Tasc.

Responding to the poll findings, Tasc’s policy analyst, Cormac Staunton, said: “It’s clear that there is very strong public support for raising the minimum wage — currently set at €8.65 per hour — and indeed setting it at a living wage level, which has just this week been calculated as €11.50 per hour.

“This should certainly assist the Government in acting decisively on the report of the Low Pay Commission when it reports in the coming weeks.”

Mr Staunton explained that the living wage is an hourly rate that should provide full-time employees with sufficient income to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living — those who earn below this are forced to do without certain essentials just to make ends meet.

“Ireland has the third- highest incidence of low pay in the OECD with more than one in five workers officially classified as being on low pay,” Mr Staunton said.

“Unfortunately the incidence of low pay in Ireland is rising steadily and more quickly than our international counterparts. This is not related to the economic collapse as the number of workers experiencing low pay has been increasing since 2003.

“Minimum wages can play an important role in reducing inequality and in supporting the wages of low-paid workers which is why the work of the Low Pay Commission is so important. In order to be effective, the minimum wage must be close to a living wage.”

He added: “Tasc also recommends that the minimum wage be tracked against median earnings and the cost of living. In this context, in our submission, we urged the Low Pay Commission to find ways to bring the minimum wage into line with the calculated living wage over the course of a number of years.”

According to the trade union Unite, around 300,000 workers — or one in five — earn less than the living wage. Most affected are those in the sectors of hospitality, administrative support, and retail.

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