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• North West workers are £16,500 worse off than if real wages had stayed at 2008 levels, TUC analysis shows
• Household debt has increased by a third since 2010 to new record of £14,200
• TUC calls on parties to get wages rising, defend workers’ rights and rebuild public services

A decade of low pay has driven working families deep into the red, according to new analysis published today (Tuesday), as the TUC unveils its general election priorities.

Real wages in the North West still haven’t recovered to their 2008 levels – the longest pay squeeze in centuries. As a result, the average worker in the region is £16,570 worse off today than they would be had wages kept pace with inflation since 2008.

In the same period, unsecured household debt in the UK has risen by a third to a record high of £14,177.

In nominal terms, household debt has risen 1.5 times faster than wages since 2010.

Individual insolvencies are also at their highest level since 2010. More than 115,000 people were pushed over the financial cliff edge in 2018.

In the first three quarters of 2019 93,042 people declared individual insolvency, meaning this year will likely surpass 2018.

Putting working families first

The TUC believes that this is the most important election in a generation and is calling on all parties to put working families first. They must:

  • Get wages rising faster for everyone - not just the boardroom
  • Ban zero-hours contracts and guarantee everyone the security at work we need 
  • Rebuild our NHS and the public services we all rely on - don't cut taxes for the rich
  • Sort Brexit in a way that protects jobs and rights at work, and give people a final say

TUC Regional Secretary James McKenna said:

“Wages have stood still for over a decade but the cost of living is still going up. Many households in the North West have been pushed to the financial cliff edge.

“Working-class families have had enough of a system that’s rigged in favour of the rich and bosses. We want better than rising debts and low-paid jobs on impossible hours that make it hard to see our loved ones.

 “So in this election, we’re going to use our votes to fix Britain and make politicians put working families first.”


Editors note

Notes to editors:

- Insolvency statistics are taken from Table 1a of the The Individual Insolvency Statistics: June to September 2019. Available at:

- 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 employee in the North West was £28,628 better off than they would have been if real wages stayed at 1997 levels.

- 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:

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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