30-year stagnation for low incomes

A livelihood crisis has been brewing for 30 years
A livelihood crisis has been brewing for 30 years

By Phil Scullion

Low and middle income earners have been in a livelihood crisis for three decades, according to a report published today.

Over the last 30 years low and median incomes rose by 27 and 56% respectively despite the UK economy doubling in size.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) report, Britain's Livelihood Crisis, has claimed that only an unsustainable rise in personal debt held off the effects of the crisis before the recession struck.

Report author Stewart Lansley said: "Up to a third of those of working age are facing a deepening livelihood crisis, one which has brought weakening job opportunities, low living standards and a range of new economic uncertainties compared with the immediate post-war decades.

"Not only do many of those caught in this crisis have little or no prospect of escape, their children are likely to face an even more uncertain economic future."

Since 1978 the top ten per cent's income increased at four times the rate of growth for the bottom 10 per cent and twice the rate of growth for the median income.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "Britain has got much wealthier over the last three decades.

"But while a small financial elite have grabbed an ever larger share for themselves, many people on low and middle incomes have seen barely any improvement in their incomes, while some have even seen their take home pay fall.

"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."

Medical practitioners have seen the largest growth in real-terms wages over the last 30 years with a 153% increase, along with lawyers (114%), secondary school teachers (67%) and accountants (60%).

In contrast forklift truck drivers' income has actually fallen by five per cent, while packers have seen their income drop by three per cent and bakers by one per cent.

The percentage of workers whose wages are at least a third less than the median (£11.09 an hour) has almost doubled from 12% in 1977 to 22% in 2009.


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