UK workers have lost nearly £20,000 in real earnings since 2008

  • Stark new analysis reveals that Britain is suffering the “longest and harshest” pay squeeze in modern history
  • Union body says years of pay not keeping pace with inflation has left families “without a safety net” as bills and prices skyrocket
  • Thousands to march in London today to “demand better” for working people
  • TUC accuses PM of “abandoning his commitment” to a high-wage economy

The TUC has today (Saturday) warned that UK workers are suffering the “longest and harshest” real wage squeeze in modern history.

New analysis from the union body reveals that working people lost nearly £20,000 in real earnings between 2008 and 2021 as a result of pay not keeping pace with inflation.

And more than a decade on from the financial crisis UK workers are still earning over £60 a month less – in real terms – than in 2008.

The stark findings come as thousands of people from across Britain prepare to march in London to demand a better deal.

“Longest and harshest” wages squeeze in modern history

Using Bank of England data the TUC compared the current wages squeeze with every major earnings crisis over the past 200 years.

It found that not since the Napoleonic wars (when it took 24 years), has it taken so long for real wages to recover from a slump.

Even during the Great Depression era (10 years) and revival from the Second World War (seven years) real wages recovered more quickly.

And in terms of total cash loss, the TUC estimates that as a result of pay not keeping pace with the cost of living the average worker has lost out on £19,600 in real earnings since the financial crisis in 2008.

The TUC says that this represents the biggest total real wage loss since the 1830s when Queen Victoria took the throne.

By contrast, in the decade or so prior to the financial crisis workers enjoyed healthy real wage gains.

In the 13-year period between 1995 and 2008 real earnings grew by a cumulative total of over £79,800 as wages rose above inflation.

Pay slump set to continue

The TUC says the UK’s pay slump shows little sign of slowing.

The union body says that real wages are now worth £66 a month less than in 2008 and will fall this year by more than £500.

However, key workers in the public sector face an even sharper drop.

TUC analysis shows that nurses’ pay will be down as much as £1,600 in real terms this year if ministers impose just a 3% pay settlement.

And the picture is bleak for many other NHS staff too – the analysis shows that with a 3% pay settlement:

  • Porters’ real pay will be down by £1,000 this year.
  • Maternity care assistants’ real pay will be down by £1,200 this year.
  • Paramedics’ real pay will be down by up £2,000 this year.

The TUC says years of pay stagnation have left millions of workers across the economy without a “safety net” and at the mercy of soaring bills and prices.

The TUC estimates that energy bills will rise 23 times faster than wages this year.

Thousands to march for a better deal

The union body today accused the Prime Minister of abandoning his commitment to a high-wage economy.

Boris Johnson told workers in a speech last week not to ask for a decent pay rise for fear of spiking inflation.

The TUC says these claims are “nonsense” and is today calling on workers across Britain to join its mass demonstration in London.

Thousands are expected to march in the capital to demand government action on standstill wages and the soaring cost of living.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady will address the rally – and she will be joined by other trade union leaders, community organisations and frontline workers.

Speaking ahead of the demonstration, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Everyone who works for a living deserves to earn a decent living.

“But UK workers are suffering the longest and harshest squeeze on their earnings in modern history.

“This has left millions without a safety net as bills and prices skyrocket.

“If we don’t get pay rising across the economy, we will just keep lurching from crisis to crisis.

“This cost of living emergency has not come out of the blue. It is the result of more than a decade of standstill wages.”

On the need for people to demand a better deal from the government, Frances added:

“Boris Johnson has cynically abandoned his commitment to a high wage economy.

“He and other ministers are treating workers like Oliver Twist by telling them not to dare ask for a decent pay rise.

“The last thing we need right now is for wages to be held down.

“I want everyone to join us in London today to demand a better deal for working people. Enough is enough!

“We cannot be a country where nurses have to use foodbanks to get by.”

The TUC march and rally is calling for:

  • A real pay rise for every worker – and a real living wage for all.
  • Taxing energy profits to pay bills.
  • Raising universal credit.
  • Boosting union bargaining rights now.
  • An end to racism at work.