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  • Friday, October 14, 2005

    Keeping healthy on a minimum wage in the UK

    From the British Medical Journal:

    The national minimum wage and working tax credits have raised the earnings of the lowest paid workers. However, progress towards a minimum income for healthy living has been slow and patchy. The health community did not participate in decisions on setting minimum incomes and calculations to set the rates did not consider requirements for personal health.

    Arguing that policies on social welfare should take account of the minimum income needed to maintain health, Morris et al have identified several basic needs for health and wellbeing and have calculated a minimum income for healthy living. They based their calculations on the needs of a healthy single man aged 18-30 who has left the family home,7 although a single healthy woman may have been a more appropriate choice because two out of three beneficiaries of the minimum wage in 1999 were women.

    To calculate the minimum income for healthy living, Morris et al derived minimum prices for nutritional requirements from consensus guidelines on diet. They budgeted for physical activity, choosing the least expensive dynamic aerobic exercise but including expenditure spread over a year for items such as training shoes or a bicycle, helmet, and cycling kit. The psychosocial budget covered a variety of expenditures for social participation: on telephone bills, postage, the occasional gift, and subscriptions for clubs and trade unions. For essential items such as clothing and the costs of renting a home the researchers used data from the Office for National Statistics' family expenditure survey on average weekly expenditure by the 30% of the population on the lowest incomes. The minimum income for healthy living was £132.00, but the take home pay of the average young single man working 37.5 hours a week on the minimum wage was £120.00. Hence there was a shortfall of £12.00 each week between what such a man earned and what he needed to stay healthy (April 1999 prices).

    The researchers point out that their budget has some gaps and excludes any allowance for personal choice and development, contingencies, or emergencies. Thus, their budget is an underestimate of the real minimal costs for healthy living. Inevitably too, there are inefficiencies in purchasing. For example William Beveridge, the British economist and social reformer whose recommendations paved the way for the NHS, allowed 6% for inefficiencies when he was setting social security budgets in 1942. Allowing for these margins and bringing the calculations up to date by correcting for inflation, a single healthy man aged 18-21 working a 37.5 hour week (the national median) on the lower rate of national minimum wage currently has £20.00 less a week, on average, than he needs to live healthily. Those aged 22-24 on the main rate may just about manage. A single man aged 25-30, if he gets working tax credits, should receive an income sufficient to maintain health—on average £11.00 above the basic amount.


    At 10/15/2005 02:26:00 pm, Blogger Sangroncito said...

    The minimum wage here in Brazil is about 110 dollars (U.S.) a month....imagine living on that.

    At 10/16/2005 04:12:00 am, Blogger DJEB said...

    Great to hear from you Sangroncito! I think that a decade or three after peak oil, a lot of North Americans will come to know what that's like.

    When you're back in San Francisco I'll send some permaculture designers I know your way to set you up...


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