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Amy Horton and Jane Wills

As low pay and in-work poverty have proliferated, demands for a higher, ‘living wage’, have gathered strength, particularly in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). Two decades since the first modern living wage campaign succeeded in Baltimore, a vibrant movement is challenging low pay across the US. In the UK, the government announced a ‘National Living Wage’ in 2015. This chapter reviews the efficacy of the living wage as a means of tackling in-work poverty. It begins by examining the extent to which low pay is a cause of household poverty, before explaining how living wages are calculated, and briefly outlining the history of the movement. It then summarizes existing research on the impact of living wages on poverty and employment, as well the potential consequences of scaling up the living wage. The politics of the living wage are explored. The concept has served to mobilize broad coalitions of labour and community groups to challenge the marginalization of low-paid workers. However, the living wage also raises questions about where responsibility lies for tackling in-work poverty. Lastly, the chapter considers what future direction the living wage movement might take in order to make a greater impact on in-work poverty.

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Jeremy Anderson, Paula Hamilton and Jane Wills

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Kavita Datta, Cathy McIlwaine, Joanna Herbert, Yara Evans, Jon May and Jane Wills