Five questions answered on the latest ONS figures which show wages rising below inflation

Was there any good news from the figures?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released figures today which show earnings have risen below the rate of inflation for a fifth year running. We answer five questions on ONS’s latest figures.

For the financial year ending April 2013 what amount has pre-tax pay reached?

The ONS said pre-tax pay reached £27,000 a year, an increase of 2.1 per cent over 2012.

Inflation over the same period, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), was 2.4 per cent.

This is in stark contrast to the ten years before 2008 when earnings increased faster than inflation, providing a real increase in living standards.

Was there any good news from the figures?

Yes, average weekly earnings in 2012/13 increased by the largest amount since 2008. The ONS said the median weekly income for full-time employees was £517, a rise of 2.2 per cent.

Part-time pay also rose by 3.1 per cent over the year, outpacing inflation.

What about the gender pay gap?

The gap between men's and women's earnings increased to 10 per cent, this is up from 9.5 per cent in 2012.

This is the first time men's earnings have risen faster than women's.

Which professions are doing best?

Farmers did best, with their pay increasing by 22 per cent, followed closely by undertakers whose earnings rose by 20 per cent.

What have the experts had to say about these latest figures?

"This year has seen a shock rise in the gender pay gap after years of slow, steady progress," said Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC told the BBC.

"Ministers should be ashamed of presiding over this latest dismal record on pay.”

Wages have risen below inflation for the 5th year running. Photograph: Getty Images.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

How worried are Labour MPs about losing their seats?

Despite their party's abysmal poll ratings, MPs find cause for optimism on the campaign trail. 

Labour enters the general election with subterranean expectations. A "good result", MPs say, would be to retain 180-200 of their 229 MPs. Some fear a worse result than 1935, when the party won just 154 seats. Rather than falling, the Conservatives' poll lead has risen as the prospect of electing a government concentrates minds (last night's YouGov survey, showing the Tories a mere 16 points ahead, was an exception).

Though Conservative strategists insist they could lose the election, in an attempt to incentivise turnout, their decision to target Labour MPs with majorities as high as 8,000 shows the scale of their ambitions (a Commons majority of circa 150 seats). But as well as despair, there is hope to be found in the opposition's ranks.

Though MPs lament that Jeremy Corbyn is an unavoidable drag on their support, they cite four reasons for optimism. The first is their local reputation, which allows them to differentiate themselves from the national party (some quip that the only leaflets on which Corbyn will feature are Tory ones). The second is that since few voters believe the Labour leader can become Prime Minister, there is less risk attached to voting for the party (a point some MPs make explicit) "The problem with Ed Miliband and the SNP in 2015 was that it was a plausible scenario," a shadow minister told me. "It was quite legitimate for voters to ask us the question we didn't want to answer: 'what would you do in a hung parliament?' If voters have a complaint it's usually about Jeremy but it's not the case that he looks like he can become prime minister."

The third reason is the spectre of an omnipotent Tory government. MPs appeal to voters not to give Theresa May a "free hand" and to ensure there is some semblance of an opposition remains. Finally, MPs believe there is an enduring tribal loyalty to Labour, which will assert itself as polling day approaches. Some liken such voters to sports fans, who support their team through thick and thin, regardless of whether they like the manager. Outgoing MP Michael Dugher (who I interviewed this week) was told by an elderly woman: "Don't worry, love, I will still vote Labour. I vote for you even when you're rubbish."

Ben Bradshaw, the long-serving MP for Exter, who has a majority of 7,183, told me: "We're not anything for granted of course. On the current national polling, the Tories would take Exeter. But having covered five polling districts, although the leadership is undoubtedly a big issue on the doorstep, most people say they'll still vote for me as their local MP and we're not detecting any significant shift away from 2015. Which is slightly puzzling given the chasm in the opinion polls." Bradshaw also promotes himself as "the only non-Tory MP in the south-west outside Bristol": a leaflet shows a blue-splattered map with a lone red dot. The Labour MP warns voters not to be left in a "one-party state". 

As in 2010, Labour may yet retain more seats than its vote share suggests (aided by unchanged boundaries). But the fate of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 - when the party was reduced from 56 MPs to eight - shows that local reputations are worth less than many suppose. Theresa May has succeeded in framing herself as a figure above party interests, who needs a "strong hand" in the Brexit negotiations. At the very moment when a vigorous opposition is needed most, Labour has rarely been weaker. And when the public turn resolutely against a party, even the best men and women are not spared.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496