Handbook on In-Work Poverty
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Handbook on In-Work Poverty

Edited by Henning Lohmann and Ive Marx

There has been a rapid global expansion of academic and policy attention focusing on in-work poverty, acknowledging that across the world a large number of the poor are ‘working poor’. Taking a global and multi-disciplinary perspective, this Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of current research at the intersection between work and poverty.
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Chapter 13: Impacts of the living wage on in-work poverty

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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