He described the aim as ‘the litmus test of a fair recovery’.
Dr Sentamu is chair of the Living Wage Commission, whose final report was published recently and argues that the government has a crucial role to play in implementing the living wage. Distinct from the legal minimum wage, the living wage is defined as what it actually costs to enjoy a basic but socially acceptable standard of living – £7.65 an hour, with the London living wage set at the higher rate of £8.80 an hour.
The report says that the government should pay a living wage to all its directly employed public-sector staff and champion this in the private sector. However, mindful of the pressure on industry and retailers, it fights shy of simply recommending an increase in the minimum wage.
While more people are at work in the UK than ever before, average incomes have fallen for the last five years. The report estimates that 5.2 million people currently earn less than the living wage.
Dr Sentamu said: ‘Working and still living in poverty is a national scandal.
‘For the first time, the majority of people in poverty in the UK are now in working households. If the government now commits to making this hope a reality, we can take a major step towards ending the strain on all of our consciences. Low wages equals living in poverty.’
In an article launching the report he said: ‘The recession is moving further into history. Let us make sure we seize this opportunity to build a brighter future for the millions of forgotten workers who are struggling to make ends meet. Let us make coverage of the living wage the litmus test of a fair recovery.’