The Government likes to paint a rosy picture of Ireland’s economy. There are exceptionally high levels of employment. Unemployment remains low and Ireland remains attractive to international companies. There is one downside to all this. All too often many of these jobs are at very low rates of pay and can be quite insecure.
In Government, I set up a Low Pay Commission to secure increases in the National Minimum Wage. This strategy has worked up to a point and has delivered regular, though small, increases in the Minimum Wage. The minimum rate has now increased by over 13% since I set up these annual reviews. Despite the usual scare stories these increases have not caused job losses, quite the opposite in fact.
The living wage is now calculated by independent experts at €12.30 an hour. The latest Low Pay Report suggests a new minimum rate of €10.10 an hour. There remains quite a gap between the two. So even the revised minimum rate falls far short of being a fair and sustainable wage capable of giving workers an adequate income for a decent standard of living.
We have council workers and other low paid public servants, cycle couriers, warehouse and retail workers, delivery drivers and those who work in hotels and bars. They have jobs, they work hard but what they earn does not provide them with income security.
I now believe we must go further and advance the Living Wage as the principal benchmark of wages policy. I want the October Budget to set out a speedy timetable for this to become the norm.