working poor Viewminder/Flickr

¿Salario mínimo o ingreso vital?

LONDRES – En la mayoría de los países ricos, ahora hay millones de “pobres que trabajan”: personas cuyos empleos no pagan suficiente para mantenerlos por encima de la línea de pobreza y que necesitan, además de sus salarios, subsidios del Estado, que adoptan la forma de créditos fiscales.

La idea es muy antigua. Durante las Guerras Napoleónicas, Inglaterra implementó un esquema de ayuda para compensar el encarecimiento del pan. Fue creado en 1795 por las autoridades de Speenhamland (un pueblo del condado de Berkshire) y consistía en una escala móvil de suplementos salariales dependiente de los medios de las familias receptoras, la cantidad de hijos y el precio del pan.

Pero el esquema fue blanco de críticas, por permitir a los empleadores pagar salarios por debajo del de subsistencia, ya que los contribuyentes compensarían la diferencia. En 1834, el sistema de Speenhamland fue sustituido por la Nueva Ley de Pobres, que confinaba las ayudas al interior de asilos denominados workhouses, con condiciones tan detestables que forzaban a sus receptores a volver al mercado laboral.

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