Monday, March 08, 2004

Just in case anyone reads this regularly, and wonders why I am whingeing about feeling poor (now that I have a steady job and don’t work in the notoriously badly paid area of show business) I should point out that Library and Information Services are famously badly paid, partly because (I guess) they are non-profit making (!) and partly because it is work that has traditionally been female-dominated (and women still earn considerably less than men on average.) Oh, and Wales is one of the worst paid areas of the UK. For the mathematically challenged, I offer this from the Socialist Party web page:

What is a typical wage?

AVERAGE WAGES can be very misleading. An arithmetic mean average includes a small number of very highly paid individuals, some earning tens of millions, which distorts the average upwards.
Only a third of British workers actually earn as much as the mean average.
To get a better picture of what a typical worker earned when Thatcher came to power in 1979 and when the Tories lost the election of 1997, it is more useful to look at modal and median averages.
If every wage in Britain were written out in order from highest to lowest the median income is the wage that is right in the middle of the distribution.
Half of all workers earn less than the median while half earn more.
The Modal average is calculated by sorting each individual wage into ranges and then determining which range covers the greatest number of workers. The modal average is the most commonly paid wage in Britain.

I wont do the figures here, but - in case you are wondering why I don't just move on - I was lucky to get a 'real job' at the age of 52 - after a lifetime of self-employment - and probably got it simply because most people couldn't settle for this kind of income. Imagine NOW trying to move on at the age of 58 (with 6 years work experience!) Duh. yeh, sure.

So, I am sorry for filling this board with complaints. It was, after all, my choice to drop out at the age of 18, and I wouldn't change a thing. It's just hard when breaking my glasses and having to replace them means not drinking for a month. Needing a new pair of shoes means no new books or CDs for a month or two. It's tight around here.

Still I am above the national poverty line, but then I live with a high earner: here's Polly Toynbee this time last year:

"It is not as if the poverty line is generous. Set at the EU official rate of 60% of median income (the median being the mid-point at which half the population earns less, and half earns more) it shoots at a vanishing target: the richer society gets, the harder it is to stop the bottom falling behind. In cash, the poverty line is currently only £165 a week for an adult couple to live on, (after housing costs). Consider too, said Professor David Piachaud, how many people never feature in the poverty figures because by working 90 hours a week on low pay, their total incomes stay above poverty level. "
"Their idea of "middle class" ignores the fact that the median wage is £20,000 a year: half the population earns less."

Or try OXFAM's take on this:

"With a quarter of Britain’s population living below the national poverty line, and three million households in debt to door-to-door money lenders, life is bleak for many in this apparently affluent country. Poverty rose sharply during the last two decades, particularly in the 1980s. "

And poverty isn't just not having enough toys and luxury goods fnord - food poverty

Food poverty means having too little money and other facilities to be able to eat healthy food. This has come about in the UK because traditional local shops are rapidly going out of business as large supermarket chains are being built on the outskirts of towns and cities. This means that people often have to travel some distance to buy their food. Poor people who cannot afford their own transport have to pay for public transport, which may be infrequent or unavailable. In a country where few own land where they can grow their own food, this situation makes life very difficult for poor people.

Sustain (a national development organisation) is working with Oxfam GB to help people to develop local schemes, such as a network of community cafés, food co-operatives, cooking clubs and voucher schemes to enable people in poor communities to have a healthy diet. Sustain and Oxfam also work with government departments to create policies which tackle food poverty. "

And here's the UN:

"The United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) Human Development Report jumped into the debate in 1998 with the presentation of its Human Poverty Index-2 (HPI-2), which aimed ‘to capture the multiple dimensions of poverty in a composite measure’. The index gives equal weight to four measures of deprivation, chosen to represent four dimensions of life:
· income – the percentage living below 50 per cent of national median income
· length of life – the percentage of people not expected to live to age 60 [I might make that with luck]
· education – the percentage of 16 to 65 year olds classified as functionally illiterate
· social inclusion – the percentage of long-term unemployed in the labour force."

And finally - In the last three years I have worked my way up above the the Low Pay threshold - whoopee

"UNISON’s Low Pay Campaign

UNISON continues to campaign for a minimum wage figure of half of male median-earnings, with a minimum wage target of £6 an hour and no lower youth rate. The updated figures for 2003 for half male-median earnings are £5.68 an hour, or £215.95 a week, or £11,260 a year."

It's a funny old world. Can't you hear me laughing?

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