• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Another promise to increase the minimum wage: students, read the fine print 

ByKirsty Thomson

Oct 17, 2021
Shona Robinson MP looking ahead wearing a polka dot shirt and black cardiganShona Robinson, Scottish MP

Last month, Keir Starmer pledged that should he win a majority, he would ensure a £10 minimum wage.

Within his speech made to the TUC conference, Starmer swore to build a new system of rights for workers, the piece de resistance of which would be the increased minimum wage. The promise is nothing new for Labour and discussions over raising the minimum wage have long been a point of passion for the party.

To students, the pledge at first might seem promising. With ever-rising rent prices and tuition fees, the thought of better wages for workers sounds worthwhile; however, it’s important to look at the fine print to determine just how much better off students will be as part of this initiative. 

It is imperative when looking at this issue to get a few basics out of the way.

At present, the national minimum wage is variable depending on the age of the labourer. Those aged 23 and older are paid £8.91 per hour, which is typically known as the national living wage. At the other end of the spectrum, under 18s and apprentices can receive less than £5 per hour.

For the last few years the typical age of graduating students has remained fairly consistent at 22, at which point the minimum wage is currently set at £8.36.

Starmer was neither clear nor specific as to whether his pledge would impact the current figures across the board; whilst Labour in the past has assured that minimum wage changes will apply to those aged 18 and under, this particular promise lacked any real detail as to who would be entitled to the change.

Looking to both the national and Scottish labour websites doesn’t offer any further clarity either as there has yet to be a press release pertaining to the talk which was given between the 12th and 14th of September. 

Here in Edinburgh, the SNP made a subtle comment concerning the pledge as part of the national conference. Shona Robinson explained thus:

“I want our Parliament to be able to raise the minimum wage to the real living wage and stop insecure employment.”

This response, however, is just as vague as the promise made by Starmer; there is little clarification as to whom the increase will benefit. Furthermore, Robinson goes on to explain that this ‘want’ would be available subject to independence.

Due to a severe lack of clarity for students up and down the country, there is really no way of being sure as to whether this possible change will apply to us. The continued effects of the pandemic and the pressure of classes resuming brings about greater financial concern amidst students, particularly in Edinburgh.

As of May this year, typical rent prices stand at £826 per month. At best with a wage of £10 per hour, students would be required to work upwards of 20 hours weekly just to cover rent. Should you work 20 hours weekly for a year, you would only be making £9600 per annum, which as well as not nearly covering the average living expenses of a student would leave you with little time for your studies. 

It is imperative, particularly for us as students, to actively be critical of these types of promises. Whilst they appear lucrative and promising, with a combined lack of specifics and a less than appetising final calculation, these promises get emptier and emptier the longer you look at them. 

Image: Shona Robinson, Scottish MP via Flickr

By Kirsty Thomson

News Correspondent