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  • Number missing out on meals has increased by more than half in two years
  • 1 in 3 (30%) workers say they couldn’t pay an unexpected bill of £500
  • Findings highlight deepening cost of living crisis, says TUC

1 in 5 (20%) workers are skipping meals to make ends meet, according to new TUC/GQR polling published today (Friday), ahead of the Conservative Party conference.

When the TUC asked the same question in 2017, 1 in 8 (13%) workers reported skipping main meals because they were short of money.

Today’s poll also reveals that in the last year:

  • 1 in 5 workers (19%) went without heating when it was cold
  • 1 in 10 (10%) could not pay their rent or mortgage on time
  • 1 in 5 (20%) had pawned or sold something because they were short of money

Asked how they would deal with an unexpected £500 bill, nearly 1 in 3 (30%) workers say they wouldn’t be able to pay – up from 24% in 2017.

And of those that could pay, one in four (24%) say they would have to go into debt or sell something. 

A quarter of respondents report running out of money at the end of most weeks or months, while a further 16% have to cut down or stop spending many times a year.

Two-fifths of those polled (41%) say that pay not keeping up with living costs is among their biggest concerns at work.

The TUC says the findings highlight Britain’s deepening cost of living crisis, which is pushing more families into the red.

Analysis published by the union body earlier this month revealed that unsecured household debt rose to £15,880 in the first quarter of 2019 – a £1,160 increase on a year earlier.

The TUC says a toxic mix of rising insecure work, low pay and weak wage growth are key factors behind the living standards crisis.

Average wages are still lower, in real terms, than before the crash.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Having a job should mean you can provide a decent life for your family. But after a decade of low pay, rising insecurity and public spending cuts, millions of working people are struggling to afford even the basics.

“Any responsible Prime Minister would be urgently dealing with Britain’s cost of living crisis. But instead Boris Johnson is threatening to make things much worse by forcing through a no-deal Brexit.

“He must stop playing games with people’s livelihoods and rule out no deal once and for all.

“Working people need a government that will get pay rising and rebuild Britain.”

Editors note

- GQR Research conducted an online poll of 2,700 respondents aged 16+ in work in Great Britain, during 2-16 July 2019. Data are weighted to be representative of the national working population. For more information about GQR please visit:

- To get pay rising, the TUC is calling for:

  • a £10 National Minimum Wage to be introduced as quickly as possible 
  • Universal Credit to be stopped and scrapped
  • a ban on zero-hours contracts, and a crackdown on insecure work that leaves people not knowing how much they’ll earn from one week to the next 
  • policies to ensure that more workers get the freedom to negotiate better pay and conditions through trade unions
  • new rights that make it easier for unions to access workplaces, gain the right to negotiate, and to negotiate across sectors.

- TUC research published in September showed unsecured debt per household had risen to £15,880 in the first quarter of 2019, up £1,160 on a year earlier. Read the press release here.

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