The term ‘Endies’ was coined by the ‘Centre of London’ think tank in a report titled “Hollow Promise: How London Fails People on Modest Incomes and What Should be Done About It”. Endies defines a new socio economic status for the lower middle classes living in London and stands for “Employed but with No Disposable Income or Savings”. It is essentially an antidote to the eighties Yuppies (young urban professionals), another term given during a time when – apparently – money never slept. Today money does sleep but under the pillow of London’s Richest. The rest of London’s workers have no time to sleep; too busy struggling to make ends meet in jobs working them too hard and paying too little.
Of course, every generation bemoans the difficulty of its own time and the eighties were equally tough for many (even the Gordon Gekkos of that time had to wear those garish pinstriped suits). The difference today is that the modest earners have given up in joining any defined counter culture. So instead of punks and skinheads fighting the system we have struggling office juniors, assistants, PAs, executives and coordinators, even senior forklift operators all working within it – with just enough money to survive each month.
The problem many Londoners on modest incomes face is that wages have barely increased but the cost of living, transport, fuel, utilities and childcare have increased rapidly. For households with incomes between £20,800 and £28,500 per year, the costs of rent have increased 14% over the last decade. Between 2008 and 2014, trips using pay-as-you-go Oyster cards went up in price by 61% for bus journeys and 47% for the underground. The average monthly fuel bill in the capital was £92 in the period 2010/12, compared to £60 per month in 2001, an increase of expenditure 52% above inflation. Parents in London paying for 50 hours of childcare per week for a child under the age of two would be paying on average an annual bill of about £14,000.
The report gives many case studies offering the specific quandaries that ‘Endies’ face. Take Gayle, in her mid-twenties, living in a flat-share in West London:
‘Having recently had her £19,000 training contract converted into to a £23,000 permanent position, Gayle has finally moved out of her parents home in her mid-twenties. She lives in a shared house, spending £750 per month on rent and bills. For Gayle, the cost of moving out was off-set by the enjoyment she gets from living with close friends. This is just as well as after rent and bills (£750 per month), gym membership (£63 per month), a phone contract (£42 per month) and about £30 per week on travel, there is very little left. Gayle’s meagre disposable income gets blown in one night at the weekends fun to compensate for the slog that is otherwise life in London. Larger expenses, ranging from a holiday to a haircut, are out of the question. In spite of this restraint, an overdraft debt is slowly creeping up.’
There are of course ways that Gayle could cut costs, such as joining a cheaper gym or moving back home with her parents. Though the latter, in particular, could hugely negatively impinge on Gayle’s personal happiness, suggesting a glaring problem for people in a situation similar to Gayle’s. But ‘Endies’ doesn’t just refer to single young professionals like Gayle, it also concerns single parents, families and young couples with earnings in a certain bracket. These brackets have been outlined as follows: for individuals and single parents earning between £20,000 and £33,000 and for couples with dependent children earning as a household between £25,000 and £43,000.
Many Endies cannot afford to go out and have become invisible. They go to work, eat and drink at home, go to bed, go back to work…. Most Endies are proud and do not want hand outs from the state (even if they are eligible). They tend to enjoy their work and are good at it. Endies have essentially climbed to the top of their ladders – a ladder they were promised would lead to some degree of success and prosperity – but this ladder is now missing a rung (or two). So they cling on waiting, hoping, worrying… with a vague promise of change but unsure exactly what it will be and when.
This all sounds bleak but the report offers four steps in tackling this problem. The first step is arguably the simplest: raise modest earners incomes. The second is to cut the cost of living for households earning between £20,000 and £43,000. The third is to create dedicated areas or boroughs to suit the needs of these people (see how this has been done in Freiburg). The fourth is to wrap this in a new narrative of what London should be like to live in for people on modest incomes – one focused on their needs.
It is vital that modest earners are appreciated – they make up 20% of London’s population. Without changes being implemented soon, many will end up leaving the Capital; which will have a devastating impact on London’s politics and future.
Find out what MP Mark Simmonds said about the cost of London-living.