Are you a working student in London? Chances are, you live in poverty

One in five workers is still paid under the real living wage (RLW), a survey by the Living Wage Foundation has found.

This means, the Foundation reports, that over five million people are in “in-work poverty”, as one in three people earning less than the RLW have skipped meals, declined social events and used loans and overdrafts to make ends meet.

The real living wage is calculated based on “what people need to get by,” the Living Wage Foundation website reads. It is currently £8.45 an hour for the UK and £9.75 for London. It is not mandatory for employers to pay workers the RLW. Currently, the minimum hourly rate set by the Government is £7.05 for under-25-year-olds and £7.50 for over-25-year-olds.

Working students and young people in general seem to be the least paid the RLW, as they belong to many – if not all – of the most ‘problematic’ categories of workers. The poll, published today, found that people who earn below the real living wage are mostly hospitality and retail workers and workers in other low-skilled jobs; that part-time workers are more affected than full-time employees; and that 18-to-21-year-olds are the largest age group paid less than the RLW.

Additionally, London is the region in the UK with the highest number of low-paid workers (750,000), although it is a low proportion compared with the number of total workers (19%).

Camilla Forlano, a student at the University of Westminster who has a part-time job as a cashier at a company that does not pay the RLW, said: “The first two years in London have been a ‘staying at home is the new going out’ in order to buy food and save some money in case of necessity. And when your income is low, you have to choose between quality and quantity in food, whether you eat little but well or more poor-quality food.”

Svetlana Buiko, also at the University of Westminster, agreed with Camilla. She added: “I choose cheaper supermarkets and indeed products of a poorer quality.” Speaking of her social life, she said that she often had to turn down invitations. “It either did not fit my schedule, or I simply did not have the money for presents, drinks, and so on.”

The national living wage, launched in April 2016 and updated every year, is the new national minimum wage paid to employees who are over 25 years old. Its aim is to reach the 60% of median income by 2020 (it is currently at 55%), raising the hourly rate to £9 by that year. But the Living Wage Foundation – which calculates its real living wage independently – argues that the national living wage “is not calculated according to what employees and their families need to live.”

New figures of the real living wage will be published tomorrow, November 6, with employers expected to implement it by the end of the financial year.

The Living Wage Foundation has confirmed to the Voice of London that none of the ten British companies with the most employees are signed up to the scheme.


Words: Silvia Tadiello | Subbing: Fabiola Zaccardelli

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