Can you survive on the minimum wage?

£6.19 AN HOUR DOESN’T GO FAR IN 2012, GRADUATES TELL US

It’s been dubbed the ‘poverty wage’ because it is so grim to live on – yet new figures show that millions of people in the UK are only earning the national minimum wage. At present, it stands at a meagre £6.19 an hour for over 21s – that’s less than £50 for an eight-hour day (£247 per week or £990 per month). For those aged 18-20 it’s an even measlier £4.68 – and for under 18s it’s just £3.68.

But campaigners believe that a far higher amount – known as the ‘living wage’ is a much truer estimate of the sum needed to allow workers to provide themselves with the “basis of a decent life”. Last week, revised figures were released: £8.55 an hour in London and £7.55 in the rest of the UK (both up by 25p). Labour leader Ed Miliband and his brother David – as well as London Mayor Boris Johnson – have backed calls for this to be made the new norm among responsible employers. It seems to make sense for the taxpayer too. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has calculated that for every person moved on to the living wage, the saving to the Treasury would be about £1,000 a year.

We regularly hear from graduates who are barely scraping by – and some of your stories are shocking. Many of you tell us you are doing unpaid or very low-paid work, often on short-term or so-called zero-hours contracts. Some of you do extra freelance work on the side (often cash-in-hand). You worry about paying of your student debt – and can’t even think about saving to buy a house or start a family. Of those of you claiming benefits or taking hand-outs from your parents, almost all of you say you hate it.

So what do you think – is it time employers get real, put their hands in their pockets and pay their workers a wage they can actually live off, without needing to rely on hand-outs from the state or their parents? Or are low wages simply the result of too many unemployed people and not enough jobs? If you are living on less then the living wage, how do you manage to make ends meet?

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