UK in-work poverty surges as average wages in Northern Ireland fall further behind those in UK or Republic of Ireland
Draft Programme for Government fails to include indicators on raising pay, productivity or investment in the economy
December 7th: Following publication of a study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identifying a sharp increase in the numbers of UK working households living in poverty, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly criticised the failure to include any measure on poverty pay in the draft Northern Ireland Executive Programme for Government:
“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report shows that 7.4 million people in the UK now live in working households in poverty – that’s an increase of two million over the past ten years.
“While equivalent figures for Northern Ireland were not produced – it is clear from the huge average pay differential that the incidence of in-work poverty here will be much greater. Average pay in Northern Ireland was just £20,394 in 2015 compared to £27,600 for the UK as a whole and the equivalent of over £31,000 in the Republic of Ireland. The difference is widening not narrowing.
“It is very disappointing that of the 48 indicators identified in the Executive’s draft Programme for Government (PfG) not one target relates to reducing in-work poverty or poverty-pay; there’s no productivity indicator and no indicator on the scale of R&D investment in the economy. These are the most critical indicators: without a strong economy providing well-paid jobs, wider social progress will be impossible.
“Published PfG delivery plans suggest that the Executive believes a Living Wage target would impede Northern Ireland’s ‘cost-competitive position and investment proposition’. The opposite is the case. We will win investment and jobs through the value and skills of our workforce, the quality of our infrastructure and our capacity to succeed. We shouldn’t sell our workers short. Any investor put-off by paying a Living Wage is not the sort of investor we should be looking to attract or giving grant-aid.
“In-work poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing political leaders today. The Programme for Government needs real actions and ambitious targets to deliver for the working-poor and just-about-managing households”, Mr Kelly concluded.