This piece originally appeared on the CityMetric.
Nearly eight out of ten Londoners (78 per cent) think their city should have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the country, new research by the London Fairness Commission has found. Even more (83 per cent) think it should be at least £9.15 – the figure currently set as the London Living Wage by the Living Wage Foundation.
This polling, carried out by leading market research agency Survation, was commissioned by the London Fairness Commission – the first citywide debate on fairness since Charles Booth mapped levels of poverty and wealth over a hundred years ago. Over the next 9 months, we will be asking Londoners to consider how they view fairness, whether London is a fair city, and what, if anything, should be done to make London fairer.
These are tough questions – but rather than starting with the answers we will listen, reflect and then pass our findings to the new mayor next year.
Our polling found that half of all Londoners don’t feel that their wage is a fair reflection of what they do at work. And only 1 in 4 believe their pay has kept up with the cost of living over the past five years.
But while many are worried about pay, Londoners appreciate the cultural assets and multicultural society of their city. A majority (58 per cent) feel London is a place where people have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their background.
Interestingly, when respondents were asked to choose the three best things about London, the second most popular choice was that “London is a multicultural city where people from different ethnic and religious groups are brought together”. The most popular was that London is a cultural centre with “something to suit everyone”. Meanwhile, the things named as the worst things about London were the cost of housing and the cost of living.
Our poll also found that a majority of Londoners (57 per cent) believe it is not fair for people to paid very high salaries when others in London are struggling to get by. However, a third of men (33 per cent) and a quarter of women (24 per cent) took the opposite view, saying that it is fair for top earners in London to be paid very high salaries as they contribute great value to London’s economy.
When presented with actual figures, 79 per cent of Londoners feel it would be unfair for a CEO running an organisation that employs people on the National Minimum Wage to be paid more than £500,000 a year.
This preference is strong amongst those intending to vote both Labour and Conservative at next year’s mayoral election. Some 86 per cent of those intending to vote Labour and 70 per cent Conservative believe £500,000 is a fair maximum. However, nearly 1 in 5 (19 per cent) Conservative voters believe there is no such thing as an unfair salary for a CEO employing someone on the minimum wage.
In so many ways, London is a unique city and its residents will therefore have a unique understanding of what is and is not fair. So the London Fairness Commission is currently asking individual Londoners and organisations based in London for their three fairness priorities.
We’ll be using these findings to guide our discussions with Londoners over the coming months. You can find details of our ‘Call for Ideas’ on our website here.
Liz Meek is the chair of the Centre for London and commissioner of the London Fairness Commission.