Helping families achieve a decent standard of living

Finding ways to ensure working families can enjoy an adequate standard of living.

Rising costs are making it increasingly difficult for people to have a decent standard of living. But to help advise Government and guide policy on living standards you first have to understand what a ‘decent standard of living’ actually is.

Minimum Income Standard

For the last 10 years our Centre for research in Social Policy (CRSP) has been working with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) to set out a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) for Britain.

The MIS is updated annually and is based on detailed research about what people say they need to reach a socially acceptable standard of living. This is more than just being able to afford food and a roof over your head, it is about having enough income to take part in society too.

The impact of the MIS has been wide-ranging. It is used frequently in policy debate and analysis, and at a more practical level by some charities to target financial support. Most importantly, it forms the basis for setting the Living Wage.

How the MIS research produced a national wage standard

When we first carried out our research in 2008, we discovered very quickly that the Minimum Wage, then set at a cautious £5.52 an hour, wasn’t enough; that even if you were a single person, working full time, you wouldn’t earn enough to buy the minimum basket of goods and services that our research considered to be essential. The Minimum Wage wasn’t doing what it needed to do. There needed to be something more.

The idea of a Living Wage has been around for more than a century and has been revived in the past 20 years. Through CRSP we provided the tools to quantify it. The basis for rates set in different parts of the country was often vague or inconsistent. We wanted to be more exact. So, in 2011, at the request of the newly formed Living Wage Foundation, we used our research to calculate a UK rate, which became the basis for being recognised as a ‘Living Wage Employer’ and has since been adopted by over 4,000 public, private and voluntary bodies, including the Scottish Government, the Church of England, many universities and local authorities, John Lewis and IKEA.

In addition, in 2016 the Government introduced the ‘National Living Wage’, a higher version of the compulsory Minimum Wage that it predicts will cause six million low-paid workers to earn more. While not directly using our research, this major change in public policy was strongly influenced by the living wage standard that is based on our work.

Meet the Game Changers

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Professor Donald Hirsch

Director, Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP)