Hard times for more UK households, ONS report shows

Image caption The proportion of people suffering "severe material deprivation" has stayed at 5%

The increasing pressure on household finances has been highlighted in a new report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures, from its Integrated Household Survey (IHS), show that 37% of people do not have enough money to pay an "unexpected financial expense".

The figure is up from the 27% recorded in 2007, before the recession.

The ONS also said that the proportion of people who cannot afford an annual holiday has risen from 21% to 30%.

Other measures of financial fragility have shown less change, the ONS said.

"There have also been smaller increases in recent years in the percentage of people who say they are unable to afford a car, to heat their home adequately or to pay their rent/mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments," said the report.

"[But] in the UK, the percentage of people who say they are unable to afford a television set, telephone or washing machine is negligible."

Wages v inflation

The figures are a further illustration of the way that the recession has squeezed the finances of many families, with wage and salary rises being outstripped by inflation.

In November, ONS figures showed that inflation had been higher than the rise in average pay for the past 12 years.

While average annual pay for full-time workers had risen by 40% since April 2000 - from £18,848 to £26,500 - inflation as measured by changes in the retail prices index (RPI) had gone up by 43%.

That trend had accelerated in more recent years. Since April 2007, prices had risen by 18%, but average annual earnings had gone up by just 10%.

In a separate calculation last October, the ONS showed that national income per head, after taking account of inflation, had fallen by more than 13% since the beginning of 2008.

The IHS survey looked at key indicators of "material deprivation", such as the ability of people to pay:

  • rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments
  • to keep their home adequately warm
  • for unexpected financial expenses
  • to eat meat or protein regularly
  • to go on holiday for a week once a year
  • for a television set
  • for a washing machine
  • for a car
  • for a telephone.

Despite the fact that more people have been suffering on some of these indicators, the proportion of the population deemed to be very poor - suffering severe material deprivation - has hardly changed in the past few years, remaining at 5% of the population between 2005 and 2011.

The ONS said this was below the European average of nearly 9%.

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