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

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.