Growing up in the country, unregulated employment opportunities would arise in the fields around one's home each year; hand-harvesting of agricultural crops. By the age of 15 I was something of an expert - at least of those crops coming to ripeness during the hols. Peas were hard. You learned to choose your field, one where the haulms were crisp and unwilted, the pods fat with moisture, rather than the sun-dried ones. Since you were paid on weight, picking water was profitable, being heavier than pea. Then you had to claim your row; you were looking for a fat, even drill of laid over plants with no thin or patchy areas. To get a good row you had to be there at 6am, in competition with large itinerant women with forearms like Parma hams. Your own bucket was essential, and it took around three buckets to fill a 'net'. Once you had a couple of nets, you carried them over to the trailer to be weighed and paid in coin, then back to picking. Your bucket reserved your row. It was tough, back-aching work, and as soon as I was old enough to have a holiday job as a pot-washer in the local hotel I abandoned it gratefully.
Of course, had anyone challenged the farmer whether he was paying a 'living wage' equivalent to £7.45 an hour he would aver that your average Suffolk Stakhanov could earn it with ease. At my peak I guess I managed the then equivalent of £5 an hour - and I was young, fit, intelligent and used every advantage short of trying to hide stones in the nets.
The real failures were the doleys - the unemployed who would try to supplement their benefit with a bit of pea picking. They'd turn up at 10, when only the low-yielding scabby rows were left, without the essential bucket, and were slow and inept. They'd take an age to part-fill a net then anger as they were turned back at the trailer for not making the weight (it was good to go to the trailer with excess weight - the surplus would go into a new net, so that sometimes you went back to your row with a quarter-net already filled). I doubt they managed to earn more than the equivalent of £2.50 an hour.
Of course, it's all about productivity. To warrant paying an office cleaner £8.55 an hour in London, she'd have to service an entire office floor - bins, vacuum, wipe-downs, toilets and kitchen clean - in that time. Employers will seek staff who can do so - and they will be young, intelligent, fit, Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians rather than slow, inept, wheezy 50-something natives.
That's just the way it works.