January 10, 2022, reading time 4 minutes

That is why Groenlinks submitted a proposal in which we argue for a living wage for every Amsterdammer. A living wage is the wage adjusted to the specific costs of a city. In Amsterdam, for example, housing costs are considerably higher than in other cities, so a minimum wage is often not enough to make ends meet. 

Take Agnes for example. Agnes works 40 hours as a cleaner but still barely makes enough to get by. She earns just too much to receive housing benefits and also does not qualify for any other special assistance such as food aid, which means that when her washing machine or refrigerator breaks, she has to buy a new one on instalments. Neither of her children can take part in any sports due to lack of finances. Agnes is part of the working poor.

The working poor

In the Netherlands there are about 220,000 working poor, as the Social Economic Council recently published. It concerns a diverse group, which consists of people who work and at the same time have too little income to be able to provide for their necessary expenses. As a result, they are dependent on all kinds of allowances and additional initiatives, such as the so-called ‘opportunity bank’ in Amsterdam East, where people who do not qualify for food aid can still get their groceries. 

These people are often in jobs that pay the minimum wage, such as the care and services sector. They need multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and live in a financially sufficient manner. They also include self-employed workers who sometimes only have one client, or people with zero-hour contracts who do not qualify for social welfare if they lose their job. 

While we wait for the much-needed national increase in the minimum wage and social minimum, we must take matters into our own hands. And so Amsterdam, inspired by London, advocates for a living wage movement. 

London shows another world is possible 

Twenty years ago, the Living wage foundation was created in London: a campaign that calls on employers to pay a living wage that provides for basic necessities. In 2004, the Mayor of London joined the initiative and now there are more than 7000 companies in the United Kingdom that pay a “living wage” to more than 250 thousand employees: an income that takes into account the real costs of the city. Not only large organizations such as IKEA and universities joined the initiative, but also 2250 small and medium-sized companies. Research shows that they did not perceive paying the living wage as an extra burden, but that it contributed to an improved company reputation and led to an increase in employee productivity and satisfaction. Most of the participating companies state that they have managed to cover the cost of living wages without making drastic changes to their business model. 

What Amsterdam can do 

Together we strive for a fair and just city. Amsterdam has proven time and again how it stands with the people in the city. And so we ask the municipality to use its influence to call on organizations and companies in the city to join this living wage initiative. In its relations with public institutions such as universities, hospitals and the police, the municipality can also encourage a living wage throughout their entire business chain, including catering suppliers and cleaners. Let us break with the current unsustainable reality of flexible and uncertain contracts and fight for a living wage. 

Read the whole proposal here (in Dutch)