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Meeting the low pay challenge

Meeting the low pay challenge

Thursday, 17 July 2014
09:00 - 11:00
The Work Foundation, 21 Palmer Street, London, SW1H 0AD


•Ian Brinkley, Chief Economist- The Work Foundation
•Mike Kelly, Chair of the Living Wage Foundation
•Ruth Porter, Head of Economic and Social Policy- Policy Exchange
•Emma Simpson , Business Correspondent - BBC (chair)
•Nicola Smith, Head of Economic and Social Affairs - TUC
•Dr Kathryn Ray, Senior Researcher- The Work Foundation


Low pay has emerged as one of the key labour market challenges for the next decade. The economic crisis and the subsequent unprecedented decline in real wages for some has coincided with a recognition that the UK welfare system cannot realistically go on compensating for very large numbers of workers paid just above the National Minimum Wage.

Although there is a political consensus that more must be done, The Work Foundation argues that low pay is a problem of low productivity and that the UK needs to develop a low pay strategy that moves beyond the usual approaches of wage floors, welfare reform and improving skill levels (vital though these are). We need to look at industrial and innovation policies targeted on the low pay industries, skills utilization policies, changes to work organisation and progression pathways within the workplace.

The Work Foundation will launch a major new action-focused research programme later in the year on what can be done to meet the low pay challenge.  The event outlined the major themes that were to be investigated,  these included:

  • How productivity can be improved in low-wage industries?
  • How greater take-up of the Living Wage can be encouraged?
  • How wage progression among low-wage workerscan be promoted?

The event also set out the final conclusions from our highly successful predecessor programme The Bottom Ten Million and Ian Brinkley, Chief Economist at The Work Foundation, presented a set of recommendations on the future of the Low Pay Commission, the National Minimum Wage and the Living Wage in the first of a series of pre-Election public policy provocations on the future of work.

Mike Kelly's blog

Kathryn Ray's  presentation

Read the report

Ian Brinkley's presentation

Read the provocation paper

View the Datalab

Watch Kathryn Ray's video outlining the new research aims 

If you would like to know more about the event please contact Sophia Ghonim at The Work Foundation:



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