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Updates from the Living Wage Foundation

An update on the Living Wage Foundation’s anti-racism work 

The publication of the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) – 10 months after the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests again laid bare the scale and depths of structural racism in our society – has sparked an exhausting and unnecessary conversation about racism’s existence. Instead, we should be focusing on how to dismantle it. 

The Living Wage Foundation exists to tackle in-work poverty. We know we cannot be an anti-poverty organisation without also being an anti-racist one, because structural racism contributes to and compounds inequality and experiences of poverty. Both the CRED report’s framing, and the evidence it presents on racial inequalities in the labour market, jar with our knowledge and the evidence that we’re surrounded by. 

We are clear that structural racism permeates every aspect of our society. That means we need to do more to tackle racism and injustice in our work building a movement of employers standing up for fair pay and conditions, while also focusing on our own organisation and its structures, culture and practices. 

The Living Wage Foundation is an initiative of Citizens UK, the people-powered alliance that is the UK’s home of Community Organising. At Citizens UK we have been working to tackle racism internally and pursue our value of inclusion, but we recognise we have a long way to go. You can read more about what we are doing in this recent statement on racial justice work at Citizens UK

In addition, our reading of the data and research tells us that racial inequalities and discrimination unfortunately remain powerful forces in our labour market, and so are central considerations in the work we do promoting the real Living Wage. While there is evidence of progress in certain areas, such as educational outcomes for some racialised groups, it is incorrect to conclude that convergence and improvement for racialised communities are the whole story.  

This is set out clearly by LSE economists Alan Manning and Rebecca Rose, who show, for example, that pay gaps for different racialised groups (disaggregated by gender and ‘controlling’ for an appropriate set of characteristics) are often large, and that most haven’t narrowed in the past 25 years. Our own analysis backs this up, suggesting that Black workers are around 50% more likely to earn below the Living Wage than white workers are,[1] and that racialised communities are more likely than their white counterparts to experience insecurity at work

Other compelling evidence showing worse economic outcomes and trajectories among racialised communities – particularly over the course of the pandemic – comes from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Resolution Foundation

In terms of what drives these outcomes, while it is important to understand the intersections between race, class and other factors, minimising the role of institutional racism and racial discrimination is also at odds with the evidence. Journalist Ben Chu provides a good summary focusing on the experiences of Black people, citing studies showing racial discrimination in both hiring and career progression

More evidence of how outcomes are reproduced at organisational and sectoral levels will be beneficial. But in the jobs market generally – when it comes to both outcomes for racialised communities and their drivers – it’s clear that structural inequalities and structural racism exist and that we need to do more to tackle them. 

That’s why we will be working with our growing network of over 7,000 accredited Living Wage employers this year, in partnership with experts on race and racism, to understand the role of the Living Wage in tackling racial inequalities, and what more the Living Wage community must do. This will include economic analysis, evidence-gathering from employers and in-depth conversations across a selection of organisations. We plan to bring this work together in a summary report, including recommendations, later this year. We are now inviting employers to let us know whether, and how, they would like to be involved in this action-research project in the coming months, by logging their interest below. 

Get involved in our action-research.

The Living Wage Foundation stands in solidarity with racialised communities and all those affected by racism. To us, solidarity means respecting, listening, supporting and acting. We know we all play a role in perpetuating current norms and more debate is not enough – we need transformative solutions for an anti-racist society. We’re a long way from achieving justice, but we’re committed to the responsibility we have and must be held accountable to by our staff, and our partners, to tackle racism in its many forms. 

 

Footnotes: 

[1] Based on Living Wage Foundation analysis of ONS, Labour Force Survey, October 2019-September 2020, with adjustments to better capture the lower end of the hourly pay distribution (details of these adjustments can be found here). 

28th April 2021
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