This is a potentially popular campaign which need not be the monopoly of the Unions. The main aim of Conservative policy is to encourage and foster an economic recovery which will raise real wages and living standards for the many. I am all in favour of people getting on in the world, being promoted, getting pay awards for their performance and for the value of the work they bring to the company or institution. I have no wish to live in a low wage country.
The latest average earnings figures still show average earnings rising a little slower than inflation. This is six years after a major cut in living standards in the Great recession under the last government. However, within that average there are a lot more lower paid jobs which are better than being out of work which drive down the average. There are also more opportunities for advancement thanks to the general growth in the economy. The best way into a better paid job is to have a less well paid job and work your way up. It is more difficult if you have been out of work for a long time. Being in work gives you better access to training and opportunity. The way to command a higher rate of pay is to bring more skill and value to your employer or customers.
The September ASDA income tracker shows an extra £6 a week average discretionary income compared to a year ago. At least the figures are rising, not falling. Wages in manufacturing and construction are now picking up.
Labour says the answer is a higher Minimum wage. They have promised one around the likely levels to be set by the independent quango that fixes these things. The rising Minimum wage does not flow through pound for pound to the earner, because Minimum wages for most people are topped up by income related benefits. What matters more is the minimum income, which is a combination of minimum wage and income top up from the state. The level of the Minimum wage does not look like much of a differentiator between the three main Westminster parties.
There are two important elements to a strategy to give the UK a pay rise that Labour do not mention so much. The first is getting proper control of our borders, so more of the jobs go to UK citizens, and so there is less downward pressure on wages from many new migrants. The second is government policies which support rising productivity. In the end we can only have higher real wages if we work smarter and better, so that our output is more highly valued. The government’s work on apprenticeships, training and improved educational standards is a vital part of getting the UK a pay rise.