In-work poverty and the living wage in the United Kingdom: a geographical perspective


  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


Drawing on new empirical data from the UK, this paper takes a geographical perspective on the living wage. It highlights the extent to which the living wage is a geographical intervention to tackle in-work poverty that reflects the cost of living and social reproduction in a particular geographical area, aiming to set a new minimum across the labour market. The paper further argues that there is a scalar geography to understanding the impact of the campaign and the arguments made to defend it. Whereas the living wage has major cost implications for the particular employers and clients affected – increasing wages by approximately 30 per cent above the national minimum wage – it also has the potential to reduce costs across the wider society. There is thus a scalar dimension to making the argument for a living wage that can help to inform the future direction of the campaign. The paper concludes by raising some wider questions about the contribution that geographers can make to the study and alleviation of poverty.