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Low wage earners work over half the week just to pay rent

Just over a million people in England – about a fifth of the working population – earn the minimum wage. Apart from a few areas (the green patches) in most parts of the country we have found that people earning the minimum wage need to work at least 15 hours a week, every week, just to pay their rent. If the average working week is 37.6 hours some might be looking at around half of that time just to keep a roof over their heads. That’s of course before all the other costs: food, transport, the electric and gas bills etc.

Map shows hours per week needed to afford median rent on living wage

Map shows hours per week needed to afford median rent on living wage

In London and parts of the South East it’s even more extreme. In Westminster 78 hours per week of minimum wage-paid work are required to pay the rent and in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea it’s a staggering 93 hours. Even in less affluent areas of London – where people on the minimum wage are more likely to be able to afford to live – you would have to work longer than the average working week. In Newham it’s just less than 38 hours and almost 40 in Harrow.

We also looked at people earning a living wage, which is £2.65 per hour more than the minimum wage in London and an additional £1.35 an hour in the rest of England. The extra money does seem to make a difference and suggests more of a North/South divide. Nevertheless, in more than half of local authorities people are still having to work up to 30 hours a week to pay their rent.

The state of the housing market is such that the amount you pay to put a roof over your head is totally disproportionate to the income you earn. These are market driven forces that are fuelled by an under-supply of homes which must be urgently addressed.

I’m no mathematician, statistician or economist but if we want to change this – and why wouldn’t you – isn’t the solution relatively simple?  Build more homes, pay decent wages and charge realistic and affordable rents


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Written by Mark Henderson | Posted on 2nd May 2015

Mark Henderson is chief executive at Home Group. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the local authority and housing sectors and has been chief executive since 2008, turning Home Group into one of the UK’s largest providers of high quality housing and supported housing services and products.

Website: http://www.homegroup.org.uk