Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > The labour market and the ‘race to the bottom’
View graph of relations

The labour market and the ‘race to the bottom’: the UK Living Wage campaign as an alternative

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date21/07/2023
Host publicationSocial Justice in a Turbulent Era
EditorsGary Craig
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages17
ISBN (electronic)9781803926155
ISBN (print)9781803926148
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameIn a Turbulent Era
PublisherEdwrd Elgar Publishing


This chapter explores the experiences of individual employers across the United Kingdom in voluntarily becoming accredited organisations within the Real Living Wage network, and the ethical and strategic motivations that underpinned this decision for each of them. A key focus is placed on the emergence of the Real Living Wage movement as a response to the 'race to the bottom' across the employment landscape seen in recent years, alongside the overall general growth of voluntary forms of 'Decent Work' initiatives as a more expansive social justice response to this travel of direction within the labour market at both a national and international level. It examines the contextual landscape surrounding the growth of both in-work poverty rates and the evolution of new forms of low-paid and insecure forms of employment across the British employment landscape in the 21st century, and how the Living Wage campaign has emerged as a civil society, social-justice-inspired response to these developments, particularly in light of the failure of public policy in the UK in protecting individuals and/or households from experiencing the effects of poverty despite being in work. It then moves on to providing a means of exploring these issues through an examination of the reasoning of a number of individual employers for becoming involved in the Living Wage movement themselves, and their own thoughts on why it is important that they do so, particularly in light of the post-pandemic cost-of-living crisis currently raging within Britain and internationally at the time of writing. The chapter concludes with a discussion of what the decision-making processes of these organisations in adopting the Real Living Wage tell us about how civil society actors and some individual employers are seeking to combat the turbulences of a deregulatory 'race to the bottom' free-market future with a vision of an economy that demonstrates that individual businesses can be active participants in safeguarding their workforces from the risk of in-work poverty, and that a future labour market in which insecure and precarious forms of employment as the norm is not an inevitable destiny for the world of work, with movements and employer networks such as those officially accredited as 'Living Wage Employers' representing only part of a wider political framework of social justice that suggests an alternative way forward in which employers motivate each other to do better and combat the turbulence of social injustice, rather than competing ever-downwards to the detriment of workers themselves.