JAM seems to be the new hot political acronym on everyone’s lips.
The JAMs are Theresa May’s ‘Just About Managing’ families. Previous aliases have included ‘the squeezed middle’, ‘working hard families’, and ‘alarm-clock Britain’.
Despite the sticky-sweet annotations that the JAM acronym may conjure, the reality of life as a JAM can be somewhat bitter. The JAM group is a sub-section of the working class. JAMs get up and go to work every day, earning between £25,000 – £35,000 a year. The JAMs feed themselves and their families with their hard-earned wages. They pay their taxes, they pay their rent/mortgage and – if they can afford to – heat their homes. They live paycheck to paycheck, with their purse strings permanently tightened. At times, they may struggle to get by. This is the life of a JAM family living in Britain.
However, the future is looking better for the JAMs, as Theresa May and her government have pledged to help them out of their current situation following this year’s Autumn Statement.
The new chancellor, Phillip Hammond, will announce the Autumn Statement today. Many of the anticipated announcements should, apparently, make the life of a JAM that little bit easier. This is what is expected from Hammond’s speech:
- £1bn will be diverted to the welfare system
- A ban to be imposed on letting agent fees, in order to save renters money.
- The national minimum wage will rise from £7.20 to £7.50.
- The tax-free personal allowance will rise from £11,000 to £12,500.
- The higher-rate threshold will rise from £43,000 to £50,000.
- £1.4bn will be spent on delivering 40,000 new affordable homes.
- Teresa May has also said she is prepared to cut corporation tax to a fresh low.
How helpful will this news be to the JAMs? For a start, the £1bn diverted to the welfare system should not be of much use to them – JAMs are employed. As for the ban on letting agent fees, there is a chance that landlords could use this opportunity to increase rent prices.
At least, the minimum wage will rise by 4% to £7.50, but – it is lower than the £7.64, which was expected earlier this year. The tax free personal allowance is will rise by £1,500, which means we will all get to keep £1,500 more of our hard-earned pennies tax-free. However, the tax brackets are hardly being widened in equal amounts – with the higher rate tax threshold increasing by £7,000.
A £3bn housing fund to “get Britain building” has already been announced, and will help small family firms to build 25,000 new homes by 2020. However, those ‘Just About Managing’ to get by, are not currently in a situation in which they can afford to buy a home.
Finally, the Prime Minister has said she is prepared to cut corporation tax to an all-time low if new President-Elect, Donald Trump, sticks to his promise of doing the same. I am not sure if many JAMs also happen to own large corporations.
It seems as though life for the JAMs may not get much sweeter after all.
JAM is being spread all over twitter, with many tweeters turning their own real-life financial situations into breakfast items and edible acronyms…
But these light-hearted JAM spoofs should not let us forget that for many, the situation of the JAM life is very real.
Across Scotland, there has been an increase in people approaching food-banks in the past year, and many of those using the banks are families. Ewan Walker from the Edinburgh Food Project told us that food banks see an increase in use during the school holidays, when parents need to provide more food than usual, as they would normally be dependent on school meals. More families are coming to food banks year after year.
Although there are no official figures, there has been a rise in people on low incomes coming to food banks. Walker suggested it could be because many workers are on zero hour contracts, and very low pay. Many people have to choose between heating their home and buying food – they simply cannot afford both.
So, jokes and toast-toppings aside, the hard economic reality for the ‘Just About Managing’ is very real. The fact that there are six widely used food banks in Edinburgh is quite shocking. The Conservatives might have coined a catchy new name, but society’s working class will remain to be JAMs surviving on the breadline.