TUC: Wage stagnation over decades as income gap widens

Money The report says there's been a steady growth in bad jobs with low wages and poor security

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Many people in middle and low income jobs have barely seen any improvement in their incomes over the past 30 years, a report from the TUC says.

Low income workers have seen their pay rise by 27% in real terms over the past 30 years but rises for the top 10% of earners have been four times higher.

Its report found a "sharp divide" in earnings growth between professions.

While medical practitioners saw a 153% rise since the late 1970s, bakers' wages fell by 1%.

Wages grew by over 100% for judges, barristers and solicitors, while they fell by 5% for forklift truck drivers and 3% for packers and bottlers in the same period.

Its report, called "The Livelihood Crisis" by Stewart Lansley, says there has been a steady growth in "bad jobs", offering poor wages and job security.

It says there are almost twice as many people now earning a third less than the median compared with 1977.

It added that a significant proportion of workers have received little if any financial benefit from the doubling in size of the British economy in the last 30 years.

'Radically transform'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "People often cite the recession as the source of this income squeeze but a livelihood crisis has been brewing in Britain for decades.

"The financial crash has exposed decades of limp wage growth offset by soaring household debt."

Mr Barber says the nation's entire economy needs to be radically transformed.

"The financial crisis should have led to a fundamental economic rethink but instead our discredited model of market capitalism has somehow emerged unscathed.

"Far from making the changes that we need, the coalition is instead introducing more punitive measures against those on low and middle incomes.

"Unless we radically transform our economy - from recasting the role of the state to prioritising a fairer distribution of new wealth and jobs - we will simply be storing up more problems for the future."

Rise in real earnings % 1978-2008 (male full-time)

Britain's livelihood crisis, TUC

Medical practitioners


Judges, barristers, solicitors


Secondary school teachers


Quantity surveyors




Welfare/social workers


Median (mid-point of sample)


Electrical and electronic engineers




Architects; town planners


Mechanical engineers


Skilled motor mechanics


Carpenters and joiners






Heavy goods vehicle drivers


Bus and coach drivers


Sheet metal workers




Packers, bottlers, fillers, canners


Fork lift truck drivers



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  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Chefs wages have dropped by 15% in the last 2 years. Owners are exploiting workers during the recession. EE are working for peanuts and condition and working hours are poor. A chef will work 60+ a week and I have personally been working 70+ hours a week. Does the Union care? NO. I have never seen a union rep trying to improve the working lives of less well off. Disgraceful Unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Ah, back to the "good old days" of peasants and aristocrats or mill owners and plebs. Seems like the idea of social progress was a mirage after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    It is not surprising to see that four out of the top six occupations are predominately government paid posts, and only one under the median is public sector (Town planner). It is also interesting reading when looking at the Public sector pay deals 'at zero' stories final paragraph "the government is making public servants the scapegoat for a financial crisis they played no part in causing"

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    This is nonsense. Who had a mobile phone 30 years ago? Who had a big flat screen TV? Who had expensive trainers? Who bought ready meals instead of the ingredients? How many people stuffed themselves to obesity 30 years ago?

    How does the TUC do their measurements?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    What is really depressing, low-paid workers are now seen as to blame for not working hard enough/getting a good education - as if a cleaner doesn't work as hard as a banker. This trend is despicable and anti-social.
    This topic was given half a column in the Business section p39 in today's Times - shameful!
    We are clearly meant to be contented with front page royal weddings and celebrity gossip.


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