Ed Miliband goes into this week’s Labour Party Conference with another ‘big’ announcement. He is pledging to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour. The minimum wage will be £6.50 an hour from October 1st this year, so on the face of it, that looks like a big rise. However, the £8 figure is what it will be in 2020. Labour want to raise it in stages in consultation with business. £8 an hour would be 23% rise on the current rate, but that doesn’t take inflation into account. To keep the minimum wage fixed in real terms, it must rise by inflation each year. So if Labour were to simply fix the minimum wage in real terms up to 2020, what would it’s value be?
If we assume inflation of 2% a year, by 2020, the minimum wage would be £7.32 an hour. With 3% it would be £7.76. So all Labour are actually promising is to raise the minimum wage in real terms by between 3% and 9%, which while better than nothing, will not give the low paid that much of an increase in spending power at all.
Labour also want to link the minimum wage to median wages, which seems inappropriate to me. They should be linked to the cost of living, with the wage set at a level that allows workers an acceptable standard of living.
Over the next 9 months we’ll see Labour desperately trying to differentiate themselves from the Tories. If you look beyond the headlines though, you’ll see that the material differences between the two parties is infinitesimal.