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31 January 2014

Five questions answered on longest real wages drop for 50 years

How long have real wages been dropping?

By Heidi Vella

Figures from the Office for National Statistic (ONS) reveal real wages have experienced the longest consecutive drop for 50 years. We answer five questions on the drop in real wages.

How long have real wages been dropping?

They’ve been dropping consistently since 2010, which is the longest period of consecutive depletion since 1964, according to official figures. Overall, real wages have fallen by 2.2 per cent annually since the first three months of 2010.

How are real wages calculated?

Real wages are essentially wages that have been adjusted to factor in the cost of living or with inflation taken into account.

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Why are real wages falling?

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ONS said reduced output and shorter working hours were to blame. For example, many employees were asked to work shorter hours during the financial crisis rather than making them redundant.

The response to the fall in productivity in 2008 and 2009 was the main reason behind the fall in real wages, it added. It also highlighted the different inflation rate that exists between what is produced and what is consumed.

Are real time wages set to recover soon?

ONS said most recent figures, those released in the third quarter of 2013, showed real wages fell by a drop of 1.5 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier; showing that wages are still continuing to fall.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies produced a report on Thursday which also painted a strained picture. It suggested a mid-range household’s income between 2013 and 2014 was 6 per cent below its pre-crisis peak. It added that real wages would not recover before the next general election.

What have the experts said?

“Over the last four years British workers have suffered an unprecedented real wage squeeze,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the BBC.

“Even more worryingly, average pay rises have got weaker in every decade since the 1980s, despite increases in productivity, growth and profits. Unless things change, the 2010s could be the first ever decade of falling wages.

“A return to business as usual may only bring modest pay growth. We need radical economic reform to give hard-working people the pay rises they deserve.”