Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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10 years after the crash, alternatives are emerging

11 August 2017
Guardian Katie Allen offers a first-class analysis of the decoupling of wage growth from high rates of employment (Record employment rate tells skewed tale about jobs market, 7 August). The major economic task, if this trend is to be reversed, is to ramp up productivity. This will take time as well as new investment in skills, transport, and housing.

But might I set out the bones of a programme that would quickly set us on a path towards higher incomes for low earners?

Trade union activism has set off a domino effect against bogus self-employment in the gig economy. A swift legislative response to the Taylor review is now required to effect wholesale change that produces strong upward pressure on wages. A crucial test here will be to extend the protection of the national minimum wage to those who are wrongly labelled “self-employed”.

Next, the Low Pay Commission should be tasked with setting higher minimum wage rates in those sectors of the economy that could easily afford to pay it without shedding jobs. Moreover, companies should be required to publish the pay ratio between their highest and lowest paid staff, including contract and agency workers, and to peg subsequent increases at the bottom of the pay scale to those at the top. A requirement to offer all workers on zero-hours contracts the option of a fixed-hours alternative would also help.

Finally, the welfare system needs to keep up with the changing composition of the workforce. Universal credit, in its current form, fails in this task. By penalising households with one parent working full-time and another seeking to enter part-time work, universal credit makes it much more difficult for families to escape poverty.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead


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