Issue date
25 May 2017

25 May 2017

- Unsecured debt per household will pass pre-crisis peak this year, and exceed £15,000 by 2020
Low wage, low investment model is pushing the economy into the danger zone, says TUC 
- Next government must deliver plan to address living standards crisis

The TUC is today (Thursday) publishing new analysis of household debt, which finds that unsecured debt per household will reach a record high of £13,900 this year.

Unsecured debt per household was £13,200 in 2016 – the highest figure since the financial crisis, and only marginally below the peak of £13,300 in 2007.

The TUC analysis also finds that unsecured debt per household is set to exceed £15,000 before the end of the next parliament (all figures are in 2016 prices).

The rise in household debt reflects the UK’s ongoing living standards crisis, says the TUC. Wages in the UK are still worth around £20 per week less than before the financial crisis a decade ago. And official figures from the ONS show that real wages are now falling again.

The TUC believes the growth in household debt should concern all the political parties. The next government will inherit an economy that is heavily reliant on household spending to maintain growth, but in which debt per household is higher than before the financial crisis.

County Court debt judgments against consumers have risen 35% in England and Wales, and the Bank of England is investigating concerns about unsecured lending to households.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The surge in household debt is putting the economy in the danger zone.

“We’ve got this problem because wages haven’t recovered. Credit cards and payday loans are helping to prop up household spending for now, but millions of families are running on empty.

“The next government must act urgently to deliver the higher wages Britain needs for sustainable growth. They must boost the minimum wage, and end pay restrictions for public servants like nurses, firefighters and midwives.

“A lot more government support is needed for the parts of Britain where well-paid jobs are in short supply. Communities that lack good jobs today could thrive tomorrow if they get proper investment in training, transport links, broadband and decent housing.”


Notes to Editors:

- TUC analysis:

Unsecured debt per UK household


Debt per household



















































Source: ONS; OBR

  1. The analysis is based on debt data from the Office for National Statistics, and the most recent economic forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
  2. All figures are in 2016 prices.
  3. Unsecured household debt is defined as the total stock of loans to households excluding lending secured on dwellings – i.e. mortgage debt is not included; but debts like credit cards, store cards, pay day loans, bank loans, student loans and car loans are included.
  4. Outturn figures are derived from the balance sheet for the household sector published by the ONS in UK Economic Accounts, Table 6.1.9. Unsecured credit is calculated as total loans (NNRE) excluding long-term loans secured on dwellings (NNRP).
  5. The projection over 2017-2021 is based on Office for Budget Responsibility figures for unsecured loans, from Table 1.11 of the November 2016 Economic and Fiscal Outlook: Economy (supplementary tables).
  6. An adjustment is made for the National Accounts entries that are not included in the calculation for the historic figures: ‘debt securities’, NNQC; ‘pensions schemes’, M9VU; ‘financial derivatives and employee stock options’, MMY9; and ‘other accounts payable’, NNSQ.
  7. The amount of unsecured debt per household is an average taken across all UK households. As some households will not have any unsecured debt, the typical debt of an indebted household will be higher still.
  8. While student loans and car loans are significant factors in the growth of unsecured household debt, the TUC believes there should be no complacency about their contribution. They both add to the problem of cash-constrained households saddled with large debts to service each month. And this reduces demand and spending elsewhere in the economy where growth is needed.

- Bank of England concern about household debt: In its May Inflation Report the Bank of England announced a review into consumer credit, saying: “The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has launched a review into the credit quality of new consumer lending by a cross‑section of PRA‑regulated lenders, and the Financial Conduct Authority has launched a review into its rules and guidance on creditworthiness assessments used in the consumer credit market.”
- Registry Trust report: The Registry Trust’s Public Statistics Report for Mach 2017 states that, in Q1 2017, there were 298,901 debt judgments registered against consumers in England and Wales. This is a 35% increase on the same period last year, and it is the highest figure for a single quarter in over a decade. The full report is here:
- Wages since the financial crisis: ONS data from the Labour Force Survey shows that the average weekly wage was worth £20 less in 2016 than it was at the peak value of wages before the financial crisis in 2007. The latest ONS labour market data suggests that wages are declining by 0.2% annually. And Bank of England forecasts indicate that real wages will decline by 0.8% in 2017.
- Millions of working families in poverty: ONS data from Households Below Average Incomes 2014/15 indicates that there were 3.1 million working adults below the relative poverty line before housing costs in 2014/15 (the most recent year for which data is available). The ONS publication is here: