Research by the Resolution Foundation, a living-standards think tank, reveals that weekly wages in the UK have increased by a mere £16 in real terms over the past 14 years.

This modest growth highlights an “unprecedented” pay squeeze faced by workers since 2010, attributed to economic challenges such as two financial crises and Brexit.

The study underscores the significant slowdown in wage growth compared to the 14 years leading up to 2010, during which weekly wages rose by £145. This stagnation stands in stark contrast to other major economies.

How does the UK’s weekly wage compare?

If the UK had matched the wage growth rates of Germany and the US, British workers would be earning an additional £3,600 annually, equivalent to £69.23 per week.

Recent months have seen wages rise faster than inflation; however, these increases have not been sufficient to counterbalance nearly two years of soaring prices. Although the latest inflation rate is at 2 percent with wages rising 6 percent, high energy bills, particularly following the invasion of Ukraine, have eroded the benefits of these salary increases. Pandemic-era supply chain disruptions further compounded the financial strain on households.

Improvements for the Lowest-Paid

Despite the overall slow wage growth, those in traditionally low-paying jobs have seen significant improvements. The Resolution Foundation credits the rise in the minimum wage, particularly the 2016 increase, for this positive trend. Low earners, including cleaners, bar staff, and shop workers, have experienced a 20 percent increase in their typical hourly pay since 2010, adjusted for inflation. This far outstrips the average workforce pay growth of 1.6 percent.

Consequently, hourly wage inequality between low and median earners is at its narrowest since the mid-1970s, making the UK’s minimum wage one of the highest globally.

While the UK has seen gains in employment numbers, it remains one of six OECD countries that have not yet returned to pre-pandemic employment rates. Alongside Latvia, Iceland, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa, the UK still has fewer people in employment than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.