Britain faces "livelihood crisis"

6 June 2011

Workers in middle and low-income jobs have seen minimal improvement in their wages over the past 30 years although Britain's economy has more than doubled in size, says the TUC.

The salaries of low-income workers have risen on average by 27% (taking inflation into account) since the 1970s whereas the incomes of the top 10% of earners have risen by a massive 105%.

Earnings divide

Britain's Livelihood Crisis, the latest report from the TUC by Stewart Lansley, shows a further divide in earnings growth between different professions.

From 1978 to 2008, medical practitioners saw a 153% increase in earnings, judges, barristers and solicitors a 114% rise and secondary school teachers a 67% rise.

At the other end of the scale, bakers saw a 1% fall and forklift truck drivers a 5% fall, bus and coach drivers a rise of just 11% and carpenters, joiners and plasterers a 30% increase.

The number of workers whose wages are at least a third less than the current average (£11.09 an hour) has also almost doubled in this time.

The TUC argues the decline in middle-paid and skilled jobs has led to a "hollowing out of the middle" of the labour market and a steady rise in badly paid jobs offering little security.

Government cuts and the recent recession are likely to worsen the situation and the TUC predicts wages will continue to trail behind inflation for several years to come.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, says Britain has got much wealthier over the last three decades but "while a small financial elite have grabbed an ever larger share for themselves," many people on low and middle incomes have barely seen any improvement in their incomes.

"People often cite the recession as the source of this income squeeze, but a livelihood crisis has been brewing in Britain for decades. The financial crash has exposed decades of limp wage growth, offset by soaring household debt," he adds.

Lansley argues: "Not only do many of those caught in this crisis have little or no prospect of escape, their children are likely to face an even more uncertain economic future."


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