Employers must pay revised ‘living wage’

“The minimum wage has to move towards minimum living wages level”

Irish employers should work towards ensuring that everyone is paid a realistic ‘living wage’ a leading priest-activist has said.

Fr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, welcomed this week’s contention by the Living Wage Technical Group that, to meet basic costs of living, Irish people need to earn €11.50 an hour. He said from the point of view of the Church’s social teaching, we have to think “in terms of what is required for people to be able to live lives with dignity”.

Commenting on how Ireland’s living wage is almost three euro more than the €8.65 minimum wage, Fr Healy said that “the minimum wage has to move towards minimum living wages level”. Conceding that this can’t be done immediately, he pointed out that similar commitments have been made elsewhere, with the Greater London Authority, for example, campaigning for the London Living Wage to be the norm in Britain’s expensive capital by 2020. 

Although the group believes Ireland’s living wage is significantly higher than the country’s minimum wage, it is striking that this year’s estimate is just five cents higher than last year’s. This is because, Fr Healy explained, even though rents have continued to rise over the last year “inflation has been very low”, with the cost of energy, among other things, having fallen. 

The group arrived at the figure of €11.45, according to Fr Healy, by working with data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice. 

“The CSO measures what the situation actually is in terms of income and inflation etc,” he said, “and what the Vincentian Partnership does is set out what a household would require to have a minimally adequate standard of living”.

The group intends to publish an updated version of its report each year in a sustained attempt to emphasise the need to raise Ireland’s minimum wage.