Poverty among workers is a perennial problem. Recently there has been much interest in the idea of living wages. As mechanisms to increase wages above the ‘poverty line’, living wages present an alternative to New Labour’s ‘making work pay’ strategy; a combination of minimum wage regulation and means-tested, in-work relief. Through a comparison of living wages and the ‘making work pay’ strategy this paper critically examines both by focusing upon the aims of the two strategies, their ability to deliver higher incomes to workers and their families, and the assumptions upon which the two strategies are based. The paper demonstrates that while the ‘making work pay’ strategy is more sensitive to need than living wages, outside of wider changes in the social relations of capital and gender, the two strategies are similar in buttressing capitalism and institutionalizing stereotypes of women as dependants and carers.