Living Wage: 'National Scandal' Of Working Poor
The number of workers living in poverty is a "national scandal" and measures must be taken to pay people a better wage, according to a report.
Unless the Government makes a commitment to helping to increase pay to a living wage people will continue to rely on food banks and loans they cannot afford, the Living Wage Commission has said.
It recommends a number of ways of enabling firms to pay £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 outside the capital - the amount it says is necessary to ensure a socially acceptable quality of life.
The current minimum wage is £6.31 an hour.
Commission chairman Archbishop of York John Sentamu, said: "Working and still living in poverty is a national scandal. For the first time, the majority of people in poverty in the UK are now in working households.
"The campaign for a Living Wage has been a beacon of hope for the millions of workers on low wages struggling to make ends meet. If the Government now commits to making this hope a reality, we can take a major step towards ending the strain on all of our consciences. Low wages equals living in poverty."
It has suggested higher taxes and reduced in-work benefits in private firms could be used to increase the pay of half a million public sector workers.
The commission said the Government needed to set a goal for the voluntary take up of the living wage to encourage firms to increase pay.
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Some businesses simply cannot afford to pay a living wage just yet - which is why the Commission rejected a compulsory living wage.
"The task now is to support as many employers as possible to make this transition, because paying the living wage can benefit employers as well as their staff."
Unions have cautioned that despite signs of economic recovery, wages are still lagging behind the increase in the cost of living.
Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that if were firms to pay the living wage it could affect the number of jobs on offer and that Government tax cuts had helped make people better off.
He said: "The only real way of achieving sustainable increases in living standards is by focusing on economic growth, employment and reducing taxes for the low paid. This is exactly what we are doing."