In-work poverty: low pay, productivity and gender - Professor Ashwin Kumar’s Inaugral Lecture

Jun 15

Venue: Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University

Mon 15 June 2020

In this public lecture, Ashwin Kumar, Professor of Social Policy at Manchester Metropolitan University will look at the relationship between lowpay and in-work poverty, drawing out that:

  • In recent years it is not stagnation in hourly pay but inadequate weekly pay that has contributed to increasing in-work poverty
  • Pay progression has been stalling, further exacerbating the impact of low pay

He will also look at the relationship between productivity and low pay, drawing out that the traditional approach to productivity in economics is inadequate to explaining low pay. Focused far too narrowly on on manufacturing, and on the productivity of technology-intensive high productivity firms, it ignores:

  • The ‘everyday-economy’: particularly the low-paid service sector
  • The impact of management
  • The distributional impact of productivity improvements

These failings come from a traditional view in economics of productivity being an inherent characteristic of people – a reflection of their human capital – which produces an inevitable trade-off between minimum wage levels and employment. The evidence emerging from the UK’s recent experience is actually that productivity may be endogenous to wage setting, i.e. reversing the direction of causality expected by traditional economics.

Professor Kumar will then look at low pay and gender, looking at how gender is central to questions of low pay, explaining how the mechanism for gender’s centrality relating to the bargaining position of women with caring responsibilities. He will then trace how a range of indicators suggest that the bargaining position of women is getting worse, whilst policy responses frequently ignore the constraints on labour supply faced by low-paid women.

Finally, Professor Ashwin Kumar will draw together the threads of this discussion into a set of actionable recommendations for policymakers.

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