The TUC has called for a 37p increase in the adult national minimum wage to help fight the credit crunch.
The union umbrella body wants the rate to rise to £6.10 an hour from next October, and also said it should be paid from the age of 21, rather than 22 as it is at present.
General secretary Brendan Barber said raising low-paid workers’ wages would boost spending power and help rescue the economy.
Barber said: “The minimum wage has never had any detrimental effect on the UK economy. In the current downturn there is a danger that the Low Pay Commission might be too cautious in setting the new rate.
“A low minimum wage would not only leave low paid workers – predominantly women – in poverty unnecessarily, but would also leave them with less money to spend. This would leave consumer spending around £250m below where it should be.”
The TUC said the adult minimum wage should be £6.50 by October 2010.