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UK workers facing biggest squeeze since Victorian times
04
NOV
2014

UK workers facing biggest squeeze since Victorian times

Workers across the UK are currently suffering the longest and hardest decline in real earnings since records began back in the Victorian era, analysis by the TUC has suggested.

According to the figures, this is the seventh straight year that has seen the real earnings of workers fall, with the TUC claiming that even the pay squeeze of the depression of the 1920s was shorter in length.

In fact, the total decline in earnings since 2007 has reached more than eight per cent, with the TUC becoming increasingly concerned about the financial situations of workers across the country.

The TUC's study compared the four major earnings crises in UK history – 1865-67, 1874-78, 1921-23, 1976-77. It found that the drop in real wages during each of these periods, with the exception of 1874-78 that ran for four years, lasted for no longer than two years.

It means that the current seven-year squeeze is therefore one of the worst in history, especially given the fact that the other periods saw earnings creep above their pre-crisis peak after seven years.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that even the most infamous periods of pay depression in the last 150 years pale into comparison when looking at the current seven-year collapse in earnings.

“The government says the economy is growing again, but there’s no evidence of any recovery in ordinary workers’ pay packets. Across the country people are struggling to make ends meet, as their pay lags behind prices and there seems to be no end in sight to their financial misery.

“Vast swathes of Britain are long overdue a pay rise. That’s why we expect to see tens of thousands join our march next weekend, calling on politicians and employers to help them share in the recovery and start spending again without fear of falling into debt.”

Average wages falling by £50

In terms of average wages, the average worker in the UK is now £50 a week worse off than they were in 2008, with TUC analysis suggesting that workers are on average £2,500 a year down in terms of spending power compared to before the crash.

It comes a month after a warning from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that average weekly earnings had fallen by around ten per cent in real terms since the beginning of the financial crisis.     

Ms O’Grady added that workers could be “over £2,500 a year better off" if wages had managed to keep a better pace with inflation.  

She also warned that unless workers across Britain were given a pay rise soon, it would see the country's personal debt problem get worse.

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