Real wages for 22-29 year olds down 9 per cent on 2008 Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty
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Young workers biggest victims of the squeeze on wages, study finds

Nearly all groups have seen a decline in real wages since the financial crash of 2008 but losses have not been spread out equally. 

Young workers are the biggest victims of the squeeze on wages, according to a new report that maps out British earnings since the financial collapse of 2008.

The research, by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), adds that while employment rates have returned to a pre-crisis level, real wages remain “well below” their peak for nearly every group. But losses have not been spread out equally: for those aged between 22 and 29, median hourly pay in 2014 was 9 per cent lower than before the great recession; those over 60 and in work found their wages returning back to a pre-crisis level. 

The report follows last week’s IFS research that claimed middle to higher income households had actually escaped “remarkably unscathed” from the coalition’s austerity measures. Jonathan Crib, an author of the report, said: “Almost all groups have seen real wages fall since the recession… Women have seen much smaller falls than men. Falls for the low-paid have been somewhat smaller than those on higher pay, driven by trends since 2011.”

Part of the explanation for the report’s gender-divide is that female employees are significantly more likely than men to work in the public sector. And, so far, the mean earnings falls in the public sector have been smaller. While women’s average hourly pay fell by 2.5 per cent in real terms between 2008 and 2014, men’s pay fell by 7.3 per cent. 

But this trend is begining to change as private sector wages start to recover and public wages are squeezed as part of the government's mission to balance the books.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, immediately seizing on the figures said: “This report shows David Cameron has overseen falling wages and rising insecurity in the labour market. Working people are £1,600 worse off a year under the Tories.

Only Labour has the plan to tackle low pay, and to earn our way to rising living standards for all, not just a few as part of our tough but balanced plan to get the deficit down. We will raise the National Minimum Wage to at least £8 an hour, get more homes built, cut business rates for small firms and ensure people are paid a Living Wage.”

Interestingly, the report found that the proportion of part-time workers who say they work part-time because of a lack of available hours is almost double the pre-crisis level.

A spokesperson for HM Treasury said: “This IFS analysis confirms that the UK labour market is continuing to perform strongly. We are seeing a record number of people in work, unemployment falling and wage growth accelerating while inflation falls. UK income equality is now lower than when this government came into office and the gender pay gap is at its lowest since records began. We understand that the impact of the great recession is still being felt and so we’ve cut income tax for 26 million people, frozen fuel duty and frozen council tax. But the job is not done, which is why we must go on working through the plan that is securing a better future across the country.”

 

 

Ashley Cowburn writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2014. He tweets @ashcowburn

 

 

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.