By Daniel Hunter
Raising the minimum wage to the Living Wage would boost businesses and benefit employees, according to KPMG.
KPMG has calculated, for the first time, the impact of the universal adoption of the Living Wage in the UK. In a new report, The Living Wage: an economic impact assessment, KPMG has concluded that raising the minimum wage to the Living Wage would take just 1.3% of the national wage bill, lifting six million people out of poverty. Early adopters report clear benefit to their businesses.
The Living Wage has been set by the Living Wage Foundation at £7.85 (£9.15 in London). KPMG’s research comes ahead of Wednesday's Summer Budget, with speculation that the Chancellor may look to incentivise companies into paying higher wages for lower paid workers.
In his Daily Telegraph column this week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson called for the top rate of tax to be cut from 45p to 40p, but only if big businesses pay the Living Wage.
KPMG looked at the different scenarios on how the increase might be paid for if all workers’ wages were raised to the Living Wage and at the differing impacts on the public finances. The average gain to the public finances across the different scenarios is just over £4.5bn of additional revenue from taxes and reduced benefit payments. However, with universal adoption the government would face an extra £3bn of direct wage costs plus higher procurement costs, leaving a net benefit of just over £1.5 bn.
Marianne Fallon, Head of Corporate Affairs at KPMG said: “We firmly believe that voluntary adoption of a Living Wage policy by employers, over time, is one of the tools that will help improve social mobility in the UK as well as directly addressing in—work poverty.
“As a firm who has paid the Living Wage since 2006, we have seen the benefits of lower absence and a more engaged workforce. We understand that this is a complex issue for employers and policymakers, but our research shows that there is more to be gained by employers adopting a Living Wage strategy integrated within their broader business strategy.”
The research by KPMG also simulated the effect of a wage increase using the macroeconomic model (NiGEM) built by the National Institute of Economics and Social Research which is used by HM Treasury for its own policy simulations. The NiGEM results suggest an effect on government revenue which is close to an average of the four scenarios set out above.
On the economic assumptions that underpin the NiGEM model, paying the Living Wage universally has no effect on productivity. This may be as workers would simply consider it as the new minimum wage. However, it is possible that productivity could actually rise as higher pay tends to motivate staff and helps with key costs, such as childcare. Current Living Wage employers have seen a boost to productivity, with much attributed to “first-mover” advantage, as employees really value the premium of being paid a higher than minimum wage.