Today the national minimum wage for adults increases by 12p an hour to £6.31.
It's one of those little victories for the left side of the left/right coalition running the UK at the moment; in power on their own the Conservatives wanted to at best freeze the minimum wage for the duration of the parliament. The huge recession has been a big squeeze on many businesses' ability to pay increased wages but on the other side of that equation, inflation at about 4% for several years has eaten into the worth of pay packets and pushing the minimum wage up a little each year helps to mitigate that a little. It's still a world away from the £1.66 an hour of my first job back in the early 1990s - £3 in today's money - though recall I got a lovely tan from the four mile walk each way between home and work in that blazing summer!
In turn it reminds me of a job I had in the 90s which employed me for 10 hours a week. The way the benefits system worked, after the cost of travel to work I was 2p an hour better off. You have to have quite a work ethic to work for tuppence an hour: I worked out that every couple of months I could afford a whole jar of coffee as reward for being a worker. Another 90s part-time job was harder to get to on public transport - three buses each way - and so cost me a fiver a week compared to staying on the dole, for the privilege of working in a tensely homophobic and transphobic environment.
We need a better tax and benefits system than that. Neither Labour nor the Tories will give it to us, though in principle the much-derided (by those with a vested interest in its failure) Universal Credit project that IDS is letting his political reputation burn in piloting should have been a step in the right direction. I really should write about UC some time, it seems to be hated for all the best things about it by people who would probably praise those same things if Labour were implementing them.