Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
18 November 2022

How benefits have plummeted in value

Those on unemployment benefit now receive just 10 per cent of what the average worker earns.

By Ben Walker

In the Autumn Statement Jeremy Hunt emphasised that the government had taken the “compassionate” decision to increase welfare benefits in line with inflation (10.1 per cent). Yet after years of real-terms cuts, this decision has done little to reverse the decline of social security.

As a share of average earnings, benefits have more than halved over the last 40 years. The decline took hold in the 1980s, during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, when unemployment benefit for a single person as a share of earnings fell from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

The decline was briefly slowed, to an extent, during the New Labour years owing to more generous welfare provision but resumed once David Cameron’s Conservative government froze benefits in real terms. Today, those on unemployment benefit receive just 10 per cent of what the average Briton makes, one of the lowest replacement rates in the developed world.  

[See also: The UK faces a catastrophic fall in living standards]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?