Average pay has doubled in past 40 years

Average pay for full-time employees in the UK has more than doubled since 1975, according to research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).


Its UK wages over the past four decades, 2014 report analysed the impact of the recession on real earnings, as well as the impact of the introduction of the national minimum wage.

It found that, since the introduction of the national minimum wage in 1999, pay growth at the bottom of the earnings distribution has been strong for both full and part-time employees.

The report also found:

  • People who started their careers in the 1990s were paid, on average, 40% more in real terms in their first 18 years than those who started in the 1970s.
  • Average hourly earnings peaked for older ages in 2013, compared to 1975.
  • The difference between male and female average pay for the under 30s has decreased dramatically since 1975.
  • Since 2011, the top 10% of full-time employees have had the largest falls in wages after adjusting for inflation.
  • 33% of those in the top 10% of staff worked in London in 2013, while 12% of the bottom 10% of earners worked in the north west.
  • Hourly wage inequality has fallen across the regions and devolved countries of the UK since 1998.
  • The top 1% paid employees earned 11-times more than the bottom 1% in 2013.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress, said: “The last 40 years show a picture of growing wage inequality. The more you earn, the faster your pay goes up, while the less you earn the slower it goes up.

“The minimum wage has bucked this trend for the very poorest, but we need to go further.

“A short-term fall in inequality from the financial crisis hitting top earners is not the lasting change we need. Now the economy is growing again, the priority must be a pay rise for Britain’s workers.

“It’s time to build on the minimum wage and bring in living wages to end the injustice of in-work poverty.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, added: “The pre-crash boom saw salaries soar, but that improvement was all but wiped away in the post-recession slump.

“ONS figures show that full-time workers saw real earnings fall between 2009 and 2013, with an average worker experiencing wages 7.5% lower in 2013 compared with 2009.  

“This was a direct result of business sharing fewer tasks around the same number of people. Productivity, and profits, fell, putting pay to wage rises. 

“Salary rises slowly slipped behind inflationary increases, and advertised salaries actually moved backwards. British workers found their monthly pay packets didn’t stretch as far as they used to.”