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- South West is home to some of the poorest areas in the country
- Insolvency rates go up as more workers turn to credit to stay afloat
- Household debt has increased by a third since 2010 to a new record of £14,200 

According to TUC analysis published today, a decade of low pay is pushing working families deep into the red.  

Real wages in the South West have still not recovered to their 2008 levels – the longest pay squeeze in centuries. As a result, the average working person in the South West has lost £17,093 over the last 11 years as wages have not kept pace with rising inflation.  

Household debt has increased by a third since 2010 to a new record of £14,200.  

Recent government figures have also shown more people are going bankrupt as personal debt levels become unsustainable.   

Cornwall's wage crisis impacting millenials

Cornwall has one of the worst insolvencies rates in England and Wales – with 41 people out of 10,000 adults going through either a debt relief order, bankruptcy or undertaking an individual voluntary arrangement.  

The younger generation are among the worst hit – a third of all new insolvencies in Cornwall in 2018 were under the age of 35. And constituencies such as Camborne and Redruth, St. Austell and Newquay, and St. Ives have seen a steady rise in insolvency rates since 2011.  

Overall, individual insolvencies in the UK are at their highest level since 2010. More than 115,000 people across the country were pushed over the financial cliff edge in 2018. And with numbers already reaching over 93,000 in the first three quarters of 2019, TUC predicts this year will see even more people pushed to the financial brink.   

Commenting on the debt crisis, Nigel Costley, TUC regional secretary of the South West said:  

“We are reaching a crisis point. Wages have been plummeting for more than a decade, but the cost of living continues to go up.  

“It’s no wonder many households are turning to credit just to stay afloat.  

“Workers are being pushed to financial breaking point – and it’s not their fault. 

 “Working class families have had enough of a system that’s rigged in favour of the rich. People in Cornwall deserve better than rising debt and low-paid, insecure jobs on impossible hours that make it hard to see family and friends.  

“This government has only achieved more poverty, more insecurity and more debt. Enough is enough. We need to see real change that working people deserve.”  

Editors note

- Insolvency statistics are taken from the Individual Insolvency Statistics by parliamentary constituencies and local area: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/individual-insolvency-statistics-releases  

Individual insolvencies include debt relief orders, individual voluntary arrangements, and personal bankruptcy.  

- The cumulative real wage loss is calculated using data from the 1997-2019 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). The analysis uses median weekly earnings excluding overtime, and calculates real earnings using April 2019 prices, as this is when ASHE data is collected. For each year since 2008, the real pay gap between the year and 2008 is found. The sum of these gaps for the years 2009 from 2019 gives us a cumulative figure, which is multiplied by 52 to give an annual figure.  

To compare, we did the same calculations for the 11 years previous: 1997-2008. This is the same methodology but using 1997 as the start year. Wages grew strongly and consistently across this 11-year period. By 2008, the median South West employee was £30,935 better off than they would have been if real wages stayed at 1997 levels. 

- Real terms wage loss per area is available here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/south-west-workers-still-earn-less-they-did-financial-crash  

- Unsecured debt includes bank loans, payday loans, credit cards, store cards, purchase loans and student loans, but excludes mortgages. The figures are taken from the balance sheet for the household sector, and is taken comprising short-term loans issued by UK (NNRG) and overseas (NNRK) banks and building societies and other (i.e. non-mortgage) long-term lending issued by UK residents (NNRU). Data sources: UK Economic Accounts, table 6.1.11, Office for National Statistics. Household figures are based on the ONS projections issued 16 May 2019: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/datasets/householdprojectionsforengland.