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Life on the minimum wage: 'I am on antidepressants to help me cope'

What kind of life can you live on €9.25 an hour?

Various

THE LOW PAY Commission has recommended increasing the minimum wage by 3% to €9.55 per hour. However, the Living Wage stands at the much higher €11.70 per hour. 

The minimum wage increase recommended would mean someone working 40 hours a week would earn €1,509 after tax each month. 

We asked workers to tell us what life is like for them when you earn the minimum possible. Is it enough to live on and what kinds of day to day financial decisions are they forced to make?

*Neasa

I used to work in a call centre on the minimum wage. I know a lot of people working there still and trying to make ends meet every month isn’t easy for them. If my husband hadn’t had a decent weekly wage while I was there, we would probably be one of the homeless statistics right now.

So yes, I was lucky that himself has a good job, but I knew a lady who was trying to run her life, pay her bills and worry about her kids’ college fees on the same wage as me. She had to take time off for stress related reasons last month. No wonder.

Working a minimum wage job is soul sucking and thankless. Plus I didn’t get many breaks during the day. This was a Monday to Friday job and my usual hours were 10.30 to 6.30pm with only half an hour for lunch. The most personal time I could take was 15 minutes to go and get a cup of coffee, have a fag or go to the toilet.

*Sean

I can’t afford to have much of a social life. I can never afford to eat out or go to the cinema. Instead of that I treat myself by going for a few pints on a Friday, but never for more than two. Once I’ve paid my rent, bus fare and other bills I am not left with much. I live on pasta and mince. Obviously I do buy other foods as well, but my diet is fairly monotonous. You have to be careful when you’re doing your weekly shop. I am on antidepressants to help me cope and I blame my low pay as the reason I’m still single at 33.

*Piotr

I came to work in Ireland in September 2016. I’m originally from Poland. My first job was as depot operative in a warehouse and my hourly rate back then was more than €10 per hour. My weekly earnings were around €320-420, depending on the shift I worked.

After paying for single room which was €500 per month including bills, and paying for food (around €250 per month), I had around €700 left over to save and spend on other things. It wasn’t that bad. That was in a country town.

Now I work as a sales assistant in Dublin. I’m on the minimum wage now and my rent is much higher. You can just about survive on the minimum wage here in Ireland but you can’t afford health insurance or to own a car. You can feed yourself and pay your rent. You can survive, but you can’t do anything else.

*Anna

I work as a nail technician in a beauty salon. I’m on the minimum wage but I do get tips from some of my clients, so that tops up my wages a bit. I can’t depend on getting tips though and they vary from week to week. You wouldn’t get much either, say a fiver from the odd customer. I’ve a little 3-year-old boy and we both live with my mam. I wouldn’t be able to manage to pay rent and childcare if it wasn’t for her. She’s my lifeline. I can’t see myself moving out to a place of my own anytime soon.
*Ciaran
I’m on the minimum wage. It’s very low pay but my main problem is my hours. I rarely get rostered for a full week so that’s how my wages are even lower than minimum wage workers’.
If I could work the full 40 hours I’d have a bigger pay packet. I make up by working a shift in a local bar on Saturday nights. I wouldn’t be able to survive otherwise.
I’ve a son and my girlfriend and me have another baby on the way. I worry about our future if I can’t get a full-time job. But we just try and make do. We live from week to week and there’s nothing left the days before payday.
*Names have been changed.

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