Shropshire Star comment: Living wage rise should bring benefits to all

A large number of adults across the region will be looking forward to a pay rise after higher rates were announced for the voluntary living wage.

For people living on the breadline, such news will not bring comfort. In some cases, they are already reliant on food banks and an extra few pennies per hour will make little difference. Pay day loans and robbing Peter to pay Paul remains a way of life.

And yet we must not decry the work that has gone into making this announcement real. Many have campaigned for improved pay and conditions for the poorest. And we can be pleased that the wealth created by our economy is slowly starting to trickle down. Though many will still struggle, some will be lifted out of relative poverty. Their children won’t go hungry at school, they’ll be able to afford basic provisions, they’ll have greater esteem.

There is a flipside, of course, and the needs of business must also be considered. For the many small businesses in the region that make miniscule margins, this pay rise will be problematic.

Business has to make a profit, there is no other reason for its existence. And as many companies face pressures from a deflating pound, the uncertainty of Brexit, rising energy costs, increased competition from overseas and the slow growth of our economy; this latest move will be challenging.

Forward-thinking managers and business owners realise the huge importance of keeping staff happy in order to maintain productivity and the loyalty of staff. Yet that cannot come at the expense of going bust. A balance must be struck – and this one feels about right.

A huge number of Midlands workers receive less than the real living wage. Such towns as Telford are built on a low wage economy. And so this change will provide tangible benefit in our region, while also stress-testing many existing businesses.

Workers have obligations. Increased pay should be married to increased productivity; it is in their interest to make companies more profitable as the region looks to maintain stable employment levels.

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