working poor Viewminder/Flickr

Salaire minimum ou revenu minimum ?

LONDRES – La plupart des pays riches ont maintenant des millions de « travailleurs pauvres » dont les emplois ne rapportent pas assez pour les maintenir au-dessus du seuil de pauvreté et dont le salaire doit donc être subventionné par l'État. Ces subventions prennent la forme de crédits d'impôts.

Cette  idée est très ancienne. L'Angleterre a mis en application son système de « Speenhamland », une forme d'aide extérieure prévue pour compenser l'augmentation du prix du pain pendant les guerres napoléoniennes. En 1795, les autorités de Speenhamland, un village du Berkshire, ont mis en place une échelle dégressive des compléments de salaire sous condition de ressources. Les suppléments reçus par les familles variaient en fonction du nombre d'enfants et du prix du pain.

Mais ce régime a été critiqué parce qu'il permettait aux employeurs de payer des salaires inférieurs au strict minimum, parce que le contribuable allait compenser la différence. En 1834, le système de Speenhamland a été remplacé par la New Poor Law (Nouvelle loi sur les pauvres), qui limitait les aides accordées à des hospices de pauvres, dans des conditions suffisamment odieuses pour forcer les gens à retrouver un emploi sur le marché du travail.

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