Feasibility of a living wage statistic

I was a member of the group looking at whether it was feasible to bring in a living wage statistic for Guernsey. The conclusion of our work was that, whilst on the face of it  the idea was commendable, the calculation was fraught with difficulty. The speech I made in the States during the debate is set out below. The report was approved by the States.

Sir, before I start I would just like to say what an excellent speech Deputy James made earlier. We have heard so me heartfelt speeches today and I do share many of the concerns but, as Deputy James has said, through our actions we are doing nothing to reduce inequality and it was concerns like these that led to my husband and I setting up a Fair Trade business nearly 10 years ago now.

But I would like to return to the subject matter of this Report, which is purely about the feasibility of producing a living wage statistic and, on that front, I think the Report is self explanatory. Whilst it may seem an attractive proposition to go down the route of producing a living wage statistic, it is fraught with difficulty on many levels and this became quite evident to those of us on the panel that explore the practicalities of doing so.

What is a living wage to one, certainly is not to someone else and this is exemplified by the recent Household Expenditure Survey which showed that the average weekly household expenditure varied, so that a household renting from a private landlord spent £883.50 a week, whereas an owner/occupier with a mortgage spent £1,444.88 a week. Consider that, alongside the fact that a single adult under 65 averages £772 per week, compared to a couple with dependent children who spend £1,477.86 and then weekly expenditure for a household with one child is £1,377, whereas one with three to four children averages £1,561 and then there is more variation, dependent on whether the children are of pre-school age or not.

It became clear to me as the review progressed that the amount of work required to produce a statistic whose reliability could not be guaranteed and which would be accompanied by a long list of caveats, meant that we should not, at this juncture, look to prepare a living wage statistic.

Personally, I think if people want to refer to what could be considered a living wage for Guernsey then there may be some merit in using that produced for London by the Greater London Authority. However, it should only be that – a reference point.

As the UK Living Wage Commission, itself, has stated, setting a statutory minimum living wage would have unintended consequences likely to outweigh any of the benefits, but I do agree with Deputy Harwood that the States of Guernsey should lead through example and consider requiring contractors to have to pay a living wage. I believe we should keep the prospect of producing a

living wage statistic under review.

It may be that as we obtain better quality data, as well as seeing the outcome of the work from SWBIC, we will be better informed not only what a living wage could or should be, but also whether such a statistic will have a beneficial role to play in the future and I therefore urge Members to support the recommendations in this Report.

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