IEA: Osborne’s Living Wage Hits Poor, Young, Minorities, Consumers, Taxpayers

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George Osborne’s Living Wage is likely to see those it is supposed to help lose out, according to a new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs. The IEA finds that modest minimum wage increases may not cause higher unemployment, but large increases will. Who are the losers? The young, unskilled, minorities and those in the regions:

“Minimum wage increases are always potentially a trade-off, between raising pay for those fortunate enough to keep their jobs and hours against the potential reduction in labour demand. Any significant reduction in demand will hit young and unskilled workers, particularly those from minority groups, hardest. It is also likely to have a bigger impact in some parts of the country than others… the ‘bite’ of the National Minimum Wage has been considerably deeper in Northern Ireland and the East Midlands than in London.”

Higher unemployment is a long-term consequence:

“the longer-run impact of the minimum wage might be to generate larger reductions in employment”

And low-paid earners don’t actually benefit as they lose out in other ways:

“firms such as B&Q and Waitrose have been accused of lowering premium pay for weekends and other ‘unsocial hours’, while Caffe Nero staff seem to have lost the perk of free paninis – showing that minimum wage increases are no ‘free lunch’. Those gaining from pay increases therefore lose out in other ways than jobs or hours lost”

The report concludes that someone ultimately has to pay for any sharp minimum wage increase:

“the cost can only be borne by consumers paying more, shareholders getting reduced dividends, or taxpayers paying more”

The Living Wage might make political sense – it leaves Labour with nowhere to go – but the evidence is it hinders those it is supposed to help…




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