Bare Minimum



I see that the ESRI has found that most minimum wage earners are not the sole earners in their households.

This would suggest that people working on the minimum wage [headline minimum wage, €9.15 per hour] can only do so as a viable option because someone else’s job supplements their income and helps to pay for rent, food and other necessary living expenses.

The minimum wage can therefore not be considered a living wage.

Sarah Grimley,
Dublin 16.

A minimum wage is not a living wage (Irish Times letters page)

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73 thoughts on “Bare Minimum

  1. Eoin

    And even the term ‘minimum’ would suggest it’s the minimum requirement for living too. Which it is NOT.

  2. Fact Checker

    The summer I left school I found a job collecting glasses in a pub. This was before the NMW and my wage was pretty much the lowest in the labour market at the time.

    I was thrilled with it however, having very little marketable skills and no inclination to commit to full-time employment. I wanted to go to college first.

    My parents (who I lived with) were also very happy. I had more financial independence and so did they.

    A ‘living wage’ as defined by worthy individuals would have been probably twice what I was earning. It would have been far above my needs (I had no housing or utility costs, being housed by my parents). It would also have been well above what the pub owner would have managed to pay for the very lowest skill level in the labour market.

    No job would have existed, and everyone (me, parents, pub owner) would have been worse off.

    1. Harry Molloy

      that’s the thing, I understand and support the need for a living wage for people who, for example, work hard for their living in a supermarket or hotel.
      but then there are crappy little jobs like the one mentioned above, or the one I had at a petrol pumps that got about one car an house (I was getting £1.80 and delighted), they aren’t worth a living wage and the jobs and businesses wouldn’t exist paying them.
      deciding what is and isn’t worth it may be an impossible task though.

      1. Fact Checker

        This is what Family Income Supplement (FIS) is for and also a wide range of housing-related supports (see post below).

        These are very difficult to get if you are young, recently arrived in Ireland and/or don’t have children or a dependent spouse.

      2. Gorev Mahagut

        You weren’t just getting £1.80 an hour though. Your parents were effectively subsidising your employer by making up your standard of living to a level where you were content to be earning that little. Which, effectively, means a labour market where employees are paying to work.

    2. fluffybiscuits

      and all that at a time when you could buy a house within reason and the cost of a pint was a lot lower than it was today. I worked in something similar and could not keep my head above water. You lived with your parents, there are people out there with mortgages who are sinking faster than the Titanic and are drowning. A living wage is not just about surviving its about allowing a person to live a dignified existence….

        1. Nessy

          You’re right Rob_G, they should never be allowed the opportunity to own their own home… They should be given sleeping bags and cardboard or forced to live in hotels and hostels

          1. Rob_G

            No; they should be allowed the opportunity to saddle themselves with an unsustainable burden of debt that they would be unable to pay.

            Jesus, is it 2005 again or something…

          2. Nessy

            But does that not show the wealth inequality and divide in today’s society whereby something so basic as owning a home, is nearly completely unobtainable to the vast majority of people? Let’s face it people on the min. wage can’t even afford the rents these days. Mortgages are known to be less than what the rental market are charging now. 1150e for a mortgage p/month versus 1600e+ renting.

            If Ireland didn’t have such high interest rates/our banks actually reduced their rates in line with what they’re getting in Europe, far more people would be able to afford a home or stay in their home.

            The banks are profiting much more off our backs now in 2016 than in 2005

          3. Owen C

            “If Ireland didn’t have such high interest rates/our banks actually reduced their rates in line with what they’re getting in Europe, far more people would be able to afford a home or stay in their home.”

            Not really. Mortgage costs at 3.75% or so are not the problem with affordable housing. If you can’t afford a mortgage at that rate, you’re never gonna be able to afford a mortgage when rates return to normal 4-5% level eventually.

          4. Rob_G

            “But does that not show the wealth inequality and divide in today’s society whereby something so basic as owning a home, is nearly completely unobtainable to the vast majority of people?”

            – I think you are being a little hysterical; owning a home is a realistic aspiration for most people in Ireland. However, if you were raise the minimum wage to the level that would allow everyone to buy a home, as you seem to be suggesting, labour costs would soar, prices would go up accordingly, and people would simply not hire as many people, as it would not be profitable to do so.

        2. ahjayzis

          And since there’s fupp-all social housing they can’t have those either.

          So we’ll put them in private rented accommodation.

          Which, oops, costs more than a fupping mortgage to service.
          I mean it’s obvious if you can’t pay your own mortgage you should definitely be forced to pay someone else’s.

          1. Anne


            I’m only reading your comments going forward.. :)

            Too many idiots around here, that there’s no talking to.

        3. Anne

          Another brain dead one liner from Rob G..
          We should have the government give them rent allowance instead Rob is it?

          You’re an awful snob, you really are.

          You don’t qualify that statement whatsoever.. just people earning the minimum wage shouldn’t be given mortgages.

          The way it works is your gross annual salary is multiplied by 3.5.. combined gross salary if buying with a partner. People earning the minimum wage may well qualify for a mortgage, depending on savings, if they have inheritance for instance for the large portion of a deposit.

          Go fupp yourself with they shouldn’t be given mortgages.
          Idiots shouldn’t be given mortgages IMO.

          1. Rob_G

            Ok – “as a general rule, a single person earning the minimum wage who does not have an inheritance or some performing assets that provide an alternative source of income, does not represent a good candidate for a mortgage. There are of course exceptions to this statement”.

            – yes, the govt should support people who are unable to rent or buy their own home financial assistance so that they can have somewhere to live.

          2. Anne

            That’s better Rob… think about what you say before you say it in future.

            Earning the minimum wage does not and should not disqualify anyone from buying a home.

            9.15 x 40(hrs) x 52 (weeks in the year) = 19 PA approx
            (x 2 if you have a partner on minimum wage also) = 38k
            38k x 3.5 (multiplier of salary for mortgage amount) = 133k
            I think you could qualify for a mortgage on an apartment or a small house in parts of the county with that..

      1. Pip

        I’d say real cost of pint far lower today.
        Did minimum wage sort of job in summer 1978 – wage would’ve bought me around forty pints at 50p a pint, say.
        Same now would buy maybe seventy pints?
        And as for the off trade – off licences really not cheap back then.

      1. Fact Checker

        Of course not. I am fully in favour or financial assistance to low-skilled workers with dependents.

        However mandating that all employers have to pay all workers a wage far above the level that clears the market is inefficient and inequtiable. Inefficient because it means that many types of low-skilled jobs just won’t exist. Inequitable because it would reward some workers who don’t have dependents.

        There is something called Family Income Supplement (FIS) which is an income support to low-skilled workers with dependents. It costs €300m a year and 50k workers get it (these are not small numbers). It is not without its drawbacks but it is a far simpler and more transparent way of achieving policy goals than an across-the-board increase in wage levels.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “I am fully in favour or financial assistance to low-skilled workers with dependents.”

          And the state should pick up that bill as opposed to the employer?

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            OK but the point you’re making is that someone who is working 40 hours a week for an employer and not making ends meet should see an increase in their income but the employer who benefits from 40 hours a week of this guys labour shouldn’t be the one to provide that extra income?

        2. Gers

          Not really no. Lifting up minimum wage or setting a higher living wage (for workers with dependants) would in turn give back to those businesses having to fork more money. Germany has it right, make sure that the employees are paid enough to buy the product / services they are delivering. Put more money in the pocket of the glass lifter so that they can afford a night out in the same pub. and so forth.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            +1 Right wing economics is amazingly naive. It shows a serious lack of understanding of how people actually behave. The poor spend their money. The rich hoarde it in banks. Money in banks doesn’t pay any wages or mortgages. Money spent in shops by poor people does.

        3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Gotta say, your name is very misleading. Lots of anecdote, little fact

        4. milk teeth

          Yes, lets prop up poor paying companies with tax funded subsidies. That’s great for the market(!)

          1. Anomanomanom

            So a little corner shop should pay the non skilled cleaner (which I worked at myself) €10-€11+. It’s not reasonable to expect that.

          2. Anne

            Why do you mention cleaners?

            They deserve decent pay for their work too IMO.. it’s not easy work, cleaning other people’s mess.

            I think I saw Siptu were pushing for better pay for cleaners there recently.

          3. Anomanomanom

            Iv working cleaning it’s not easy but it’s completely non skilled. No justification in anyway to pay a cleaner €10/11+. I’m not bad mouthing or putting cleaners down.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            If you’re actually going to employ someone as a cleaner as opposed to doing it yourself, you can afford to pay them €10 an hour. Apart from that, if your corner shop is a kip, I’m probably not going to go there twice, or even walk straight back out. If it’s nice and clean, I’m far more likely to stay and come again. Your cleaner has therefore increased the chances of you making money and deserves his cut.

          5. Anne

            He was a cleaner himself, and he lived at home.. and did it for 2 bob a week, and he was only delira with his wage packet at the end of the week. The plebs should feel the same.

          6. Anomanomanom

            Yes i did work cleaning ans No i wasn’t happy with my wages. If your happy with your wages you have no ambition, but face facts cleaning is non skilled manual labour.

          7. MoyestWithExcitement

            I think that’s what a lot of right wing theory comes from, genuinely. ‘If I did it…’ There was someone from either ibec or ISME on Vincent browne last night. Some chap was making the case against zero hour contracts by commenting on the lack of security it means and how that negatively impacts on people’s ability to live a normal life. Her reaction was ‘well employers don’t have security either’. That is seriously the argument of a child.

          8. Anomanomanom

            Oh Jesus “right wing” label being thrown around again, grow up. I’m not left or right. But I am a realist, Iv genuinely done poo jobs for poo pay, I used those jobs to get experience and some money and every job I moved to was better and higher paid. If you get stuck on minimum wage for most of your working life then you have start looking at what YOU’RE doing wrong not anyone else.

          9. Anne

            Oh yeah?
            I didn’t watch it last night myself… I turned it on and your wan Marie Louise O’Donnell was on..again. I can’t listen to her. They’re kinda scrapping the barrell having her on continuously.

            But yeah, of course IBEC want zero hour contracts.. they also said recently that there are no new laws needed to deal with the likes of how Clerys treated the workers.. The worker they aint about. Max profits is what they care about.

          10. Rob_G

            Re: the great cleaner debate

            “If you’re actually going to employ someone as a cleaner as opposed to doing it yourself, you can afford to pay them €10 an hour.”

            – exactly; if the cost is too high, people will decide that it is not worthwhile to engage the services of a cleaner = less work for cleaners.

          11. MoyestWithExcitement

            “exactly; if the cost is too high, people will decide that it is not worthwhile to engage the services of a cleaner = less work for cleaners”

            Jobs are created by need, not philanthropy on the part of the employer. He will *only* create a job if he *needs* something done. He needs it done because it helps his business create money. It’s up to him how much it’s worth to him. If he doesn’t value having his shop clean at a tenner an hour, then he has a filthy shop. If he simply can’t afford a tenner an hour, then his business is pretty crap and whoever he would have hired would lose their job pretty soon afterwards anyway.

          12. ahjayzis

            How are you assessing the worth of a cleaner?

            It’s not are they worth 11 quid – it’s is having your place cleaned worth 11 quid to YOU.

        5. Anne

          ” I am fully in favour or financial assistance to low-skilled workers with dependents.”

          That’s wonderful you feel that way..

          However, there are companies that can well afford to pay a living wage. The likes of McDonalds and in the U.S. Walmarts are making huge profits. They’re the biggest employers there and you have the government subsidising their employees, as they don’t pay enough.

          ‘Low skill’ is such a horrible term btw. Stop being such a snob.
          These people are doing valuable work serving the public. Stop looking your nose down on people. It doesn’t take that much skill to be in work posting your snobbery on a website.

          I think I’m going to refer to you as a low productivity snob.

        6. nellyb

          Instead of pointing fingers at minimum wage, the root causes of why even minimum is not sustainable should be looked at.
          If a private business job can’t pay minimum wage it isn’t a real job as it does not generate enough revenue for business to sustain it. There are businesses that shouldn’t exist, but staying afloat because they borrow every month to exist.Like people who can only fund their life styles with rolled credit card debts, yet we don’t call them ‘businessmen”. But of course, market is massively distorted with endless tax deals for some and nada for others, upwards only rent reviews and all that medieval $h|te, that it is kind of crazy and pointless to talk about wages in isolation.

          1. nellyb

            (for the tempted: i did not suggest that people in debt should not exist :-), it’s only a metaphor, perhaps not the best one)

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        It’s pretty standard to see people who have no idea what it’s like to be poor, lecturing through poor on how to live.

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      Gas. I was thinking the same thing.
      “This would suggest…” Hmm. To you, maybe, lady.

    1. Boj

      Is there anything in Ireland that we have the lowest of or even close to the lowest of in EU??

        1. Ultach

          Also, lactose intolerance, I believe. I don’t know if that’s related to the lack of genetic diversity (even though that means basically everything is related, if you see what I mean).

          1. Boj

            Firstly, HA! Secondly and genuinely, is genetic diversity officially low in Ireland? I would have thought we had a good bit mixed in over the centuries with Spain/Portugal/UK/France?

          2. Nikkeboentje

            Up until January of this year, if you wanted to get married in Luxembourg you had to take a blood test to show that you weren’t related!

          3. Ultach

            That Luxemburgish thing would have put the cosh on some of my cousins’ nuptials. And before ye ask, I went two counties away to find my trouble and strife. She does have the same surname as me ma though. But seven generations is seven generations.

          4. Rob_G

            @ Nikke

            – that’s surprising; I would have thought that Luxembourg would be fairly genetically diverse, what with all the immigration over the years?

            (every second person spoke Portuguese when I was there).

  3. wearnicehats

    I have no problem with the concept of another increase in the minimum wage. As long as all the advocates of it realise that the price of the everything they buy will rise accordingly.

    1. 15 cents

      true. you can increase social welfare, benefits, minimum wage, whatever .. but capitalism will take it off you in the end.

    2. Gorev Mahagut

      Cotton wasn’t any cheaper to produce when it was produced by slaves. It just looked cheaper to the buyers because the slaves did most of the paying.

  4. Anne

    Just reading the original article there on the times..
    ““The essential message is that there is very little overlap between low pay and poverty, and therefore we shouldn’t think of the minimum wage as being a major tool for dealing with poverty,” ESRI economist Tim Callan told The Irish Times.

    “It isn’t that we’re against increases in the minimum wage; we just think that’s a separate debate, and these things should be kept separate,” he said.”

    Very little overlap between low pay and poverty?

    So those earning the minimum wage are rolling in it are they?
    They mightn’t be on the poverty line, so is he inferring the minimum wage is ok as is?

    1. Fact Checker

      It is well worth reading the ESRI report. It is short and not particularly technical.(

      -They define (relative) poverty
      -They show how many people in poverty are working on the minimum wage (very few)
      -They show what raising the minimum wage would do to poverty levels (not much)

      The issue is that most NMW earners are 2nd or 3rd earners in a household. Most households actually IN poverty are there because no one works at all for all sorts of reasons including disability, low skills, distance from employment, high childcare costs, etc. Raising the NMW does nothing for those who are not in employment.

      Of course there are dynamic effects – higher wages may make people more likely to take up a job – but these impacts are likely small.

      1. Gorev Mahagut

        The original point was that you can only have a low-wage job if someone else subsidises your employer by making up your standard of living above what your low wages can afford: it is, effectively, a situation where people are paying to work. A higher minimum wage doesn’t just make people more likely to take up a job, it actually makes it possible for more people to work.

        What would really reduce poverty is a universal basic income. In the absence of that a minimum wage does not affect the cost of providing goods and services, it just ensures that the buyer pays the full cost rather enjoying a subsidy extracted from the worker.

        1. Anne


          Even if an increase in the minimum wage wouldn’t benefit those on the poverty line (which I would be doubtful of), that doesn’t mean it’s not worth increasing and it wouldn’t positively affect those getting the minimum wage..

          On the other end of the spectrum, you could say an increase in the minimum wage won’t make peoples’ lives very comfortable, so it’s not worth doing.. I can’t really follow the logic.

      2. Anne

        “-They define (relative) poverty”

        Might as well say there’s starving children in Africa..

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