Since ‘we’, the UK, are now apparently on our way to being out of the EU, following Brexit, ‘we’re’ starting to make our own rules it seems. One of these is forcing out EU migrant workers who earn under £25K.
For some reason this bothers me even though I don’t personally know any such people, but I feel an injustice and an unfairness.
On one level I can partly relate since I live in Wales, with is part of the UK along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (I spell that out because not everyone knows this). I live and work in Wales but I was born in England. Therefore, what if at some point there is a major shift whereby ‘Wales’ wants to go its own way, similar to what Scotland seems to want, and just as the UK has done as part of the European Union. What if the rules were the same and I was expected to pack up and move back to England because I don’t earn as much as £25K a year?
To put this into perspective, the minimum hourly wage one must earn here in the UK will be £8.72 as of April, and at a minimum number of hours to be categorised as being in full-time work is 30, therefore the legal minimum of earnings for full time work would be under £15K.
Criticisms have already been raised from business sectors which employ foreign workers at such rates. One of the arguments, such as “British jobs for British people” is that often migrant workers are taking the jobs that locals don’t want to do, such as care-work, cleaners and fruit-pickers.
A counter argument might be, why not then kick out anyone who earns under £25K?
I wonder what is the significance of “£25K”. Perhaps anyone who earns less than £25K is generally a ‘burden’ to the system, since they may well be entitled to benefits for being a low earner, while at the same time costing the system, such as through the NHS, when they are making use of that system. For example, I might be earning less than £15K a year and paying the measly level of taxes that are expected of me and then I suffer an injury or illness which costs the NHS (our ‘free’ National Health Service here) far more than I have ever paid in in taxes. The money therefore comes from those higher-earning tax payers.
The issue with kicking out all of the low-paid EU workers is that not only will it potentially leave some sectors under-staffed (the care industry is apparently already struggling) it might mean wages for such positions will be forced to rise. In some cases this might not be possible (the care industry again has a limited budget) but in others where it is possible you might think this would be a good thing. However, similar to raising the minimum wage for all or introducing Universal Credit (something that on the face of it sounds enticing to me), this has a knock-on effect for all, but its impacts will be mostly felt by, again, the low earners. An example is this:
If your local supermarket (or whatever service) is paying its staff minimum wage, if it is forced to raise those wages (either through the minimum being raised or in order to attract more people to work there) then aside from the big bosses themselves taking a pay cut* the prices of the items in that supermarket (or the services being supplied) will have to increase. This mostly impacts the lower earners who shop there (or use those services). This is why, after considering this aspect, I’m actually apprehensive about any sign of a push for Universal Credit.
*My experience is that it is the norm for any industry to either pay its staff inline with the minimum wage (such as float marginally above it) or what they pay is dictated by the industry as a whole, such as if electricians can obtain a wage of £20 an hour from one place, they’re not going to settle of £10 per hour from another. Big bosses, while earning their millions, probably care little how much their lower staff might be struggling from being paid so close to minimum wage.
I do think that there should be a monitoring system in place to check that people who are coming here for work are actually working, and also that they are being paid and treated fairly. Slave labour does still exist in this country, not only in the form of people not being paid for doing work, but also in the case of people being paid what is the legal minimum yet struggling to make-ends-meet each week. This is simply grotesque when such workers are employed by people who earn a lot.
Perhaps the reason for the ‘£25K’ minimum is again, because anyone earning less than this but at least minimum wage, is actually (on average perhaps) a burden on the system (and those people/voters with money begrudge propping them up).
Should I get out because I earn less than £25K? It seems odd because I find it easy to live off less than half of this. Shouldn’t I be free to continue to earn as little as I need? After all, if I earned more, surely I’d waste more, as others seem to do, buying things I don’t need and perhaps further harming the environment in the process; I could afford to take flights abroad for a few vacations, or buy a new car just for the sake of it.
Credits: Title image from Freepik