REAL wages in Britain, those adjusted for inflation, have fallen by more than 10 per cent in the eight years since the recession began, putting the UK at the bottom of the EU league table for wage growth.
A report issued by the TUC, the national Trade Union Congress, uses figures from the OECD to demonstrate that, while real wages grew in almost every other European country, from 14 per cent in Germany to 23 per cent in Poland, the UK was one of only three to show a decline, alongside Greece and Portugal.
The 10.4 per cent drop experienced by the UK was equalled by Greece in its misery, placing the two countries, teetering on the edge of an EU exit, joint bottom of the OECD table.
“Wages fell off the cliff after the financial crisis, and have barely begun to recover,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. “People cannot afford another hit to their pay packets. Working people must not foot the bill for a Brexit downturn in the way they did for the bankers’ crash.”
The Treasury was quick to defend its record, with a Conservative government in power for most of the period, and argued that increased employment and higher living standards offset the negative implications of the report.
“This analysis ignores the point that following the great recession the UK employment rate has grown more than any G7 country, living standards have reached their highest level and wages continue to rise faster than prices – and will be helped by the new national living wage,” it said in response.
Other analysis has, however, broadly supported the TUC’s findings, with an official OECD annual employment study released earlier this month suggesting that real hourly wages were 25 per cent below the level they would have been had 2000-2007 growth rates continued, while the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, argued in June that “the majority of UK households have faced a lost decade of income”.