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From: The Socialist issue 822, 20 August 2014: We can't live on poverty pay!

Search site for keywords: Pay - Them & Us - Market - Households - Sanctions - Benefits - Atos

Them & Us

Mind the gap

The fall in average earnings in the last economic quarter didn't affect Britain's fat cat executives. The bosses of the UK's biggest 100 companies, on average, increased their pay from 4.1 million in 2012 to 4.7 million last year. They now 'earn' 143 times the average salary of their workers. That gap rises to 175 times when compared with the average UK salary. Back in the 1990s the gap was 60 times the average salary.

Unfit for purpose

The most vulnerable people are increasingly being targeted by the government's draconian benefit sanctions regime. The drive to make funding cuts has resulted in a 350% increase in sanctions applied to sick and disabled claimants in the last year. Even a minor mistake of missing an appointment at the Jobcentre can result in the suspension of benefits for up to three years!

Some 500,000 disabled people receiving Employment Support Allowance have had their benefits sanctioned after being deemed 'fit for work' by private contractor Atos, working for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Following widespread protests, Atos has now agreed to an early exit from the work capability assessment programme, but the sanctions regime remains.

Killer market

It seems that promising developments in a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed over 1,000 people in four African countries, were not pursued by pharmaceutical companies because they were deemed 'unprofitable'. According to Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant World Health Organisation director general: "It's a market failure because this is typically a disease of poor people in poor countries, and so there is no market."

Race to the bottom

One in four women workers in the UK are in low-paid work. Of these, one in eight is on zero-hour contracts, according to the Fawcett Society. It adds that one in five women (22%) earning less than 7.44 an hour (the national 'living wage' during the survey) was educated to degree level, with over a third (36%) describing themselves as "overqualified" for their job.

Housing costs

A report by think tank Resolution Foundation says that 1.6 million households in the UK are spending more than 50% of their disposable income on housing costs.

Around 63% (990,000) are working households, 30% (480,000) are workless households and 7% (110,000) are retired households.

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