The Living Wage

Donald Hirsch, Laura Valadez-Martinez

£60.00  |  $75.00
ISBN 9781911116455
£16.99  |  $25.00
ISBN 9781911116462
£16.99  |  $25.00
ISBN 9781911116479
136 pages   |  210 x 148mm   |  27 April 2017


"The living wage is clearly an idea whose time has come, when even Conservative chancellors adopt the term. Britain's low-wage culture needs the remedy of pay rates people can live on. But what does this flexible phrase mean? How can it be implemented and made sustainable? This crisply written guide by the leading experts is invaluable for understanding where the living wage has come from, what it means today and how it can work in the future." – Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist

"The minimum wage and other types of wage floors have made a huge difference in the standard of living for hundreds of millions of workers over the last two centuries. These floors continue to be a major area of contention in political campaigns and policy debates. In this book, Donald Hirsch and Laura Valadez-Martinez give an excellent summary of this history and the key issues." – Dean Baker, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC

"Donald Hirsch and his team at Loughborough have played a central role in ensuring that the UK living wage movement rests on a firm intellectual foundation, which underpins its great moral authority. In their new book, Donald and Laura look at living wage campaigns in a range of different countries. Their timely insights make this recommended reading for those who want to see the living wage help more working people reach a decent standard of living." – Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC

"A comprehensive review of the history, development and implementation of the 'living wage' in the global industrialised economies. This book informs the reader about the origins, enactment and expectations for the 'living wage' positioned against the diverse backgrounds of economic and social changes in the global economy ... An overdue synopsis of many debates concerning the 'living wage' and presents informed views about its viability in modern economies in an engaging and thought-provoking manner." – Jereme Snook, Employee Relations


The "living wage" is an old idea that has experienced a dramatic resurgence of political popularity in recent years. The underlying logic of the concept is quite clear: it is a wage that provides workers with enough income to live on at some level considered adequate. However, in practice the term has become blurred with that of the "minimum wage" and in its implementation it has lacked a consistent meaning despite being widely used as a campaigning slogan.

This short primer traces the origins of the concept of the living wage and seeks to explain the current rise in its fortunes as an economic instrument with a social objective. It examines its impact on labour markets and wage levels, explores how it has been applied, and assesses whether it is an effective measure for raising living standards.

It offers a broad-ranging analysis of the debates, policy developments and limitations of wage floors in developed economies and will appeal to a wide readership in economics, public policy and sociology, as well as those working in non-profit and non-governmental organizations.


1. The Meaning, Origins and Development of a Living Wage
2. Contemporary Living Wages in Practice
3. The Impact of Higher Wage Floors on Labour Markets
4. Interactions with Incomes and Social Policy
5. Issues and Choices for a Sustainable Living Wage in the Twenty-First Century

Author Information

Donald Hirsch is Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. He developed the calculation of the UK Living Wage accredited by the Living Wage Foundation and he leads CRSP's ongoing research programme into household incomes and poverty trends. He was Poverty Adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for the ten years prior to joining CRSP in 2008.

Laura Valadez-Martinez is a Research Associate in the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. Before joining CRSP, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, University of Lisbon. She completed her PhD in Social Policy at the University of Oxford.

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