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  • Average pay has fallen for millions of lower and middle-income jobs since 2010
  • The highest paid jobs have had an average 4% pay increase since 2010
  • Austerity and lack of bargaining rights has held down pay in working-class and middle-class jobs, says TUC

Millions of employees in lower-paid and middle-income jobs have had real pay reductions over the last decade, according to new TUC analysis published today (Saturday).

The analysis looks at how occupational hourly pay has changed. It shows that, although the very lowest paid have benefited from minimum wage rises, millions of other workers in low and middle-income jobs have had real pay reductions since 2010.

Lowest earners (7.1 million people)

Real pay for workers in jobs paying less than 75% of median pay (less than £9.55 an hour) has increased by 5% since the turn of the decade (2010-2018).

But this increase is just half the rate of the prior period (2002-2010), when pay for this group rose at twice the rate (10%).

The TUC says that the rise of 5% is largely due to the positive impact of raising the National Minimum Wage faster than inflation.

Low-to-middle earners (7.7 million people)

Real pay for workers in jobs paying between 75% and 100% of median pay (between £9.56 and £12.73 an hour) has fallen by 1% since 2010.

This reduction compares to a rise of 7% for this group between 2002 and 2010.

The TUC says that the negative impact of austerity on the economy, along with a lack of collective pay bargaining rights, are largely to blame for low-to-middle earners suffering this loss of living standards.

Middle-to-high earners (11.5 million people)

Real pay for workers in jobs paying between 100% and 200% of median pay (between £12.74 and £25.45 an hour) has fallen by 3% since 2010.

The TUC says that this shows that middle-class earners have shared the negative impacts of austerity on living standards alongside those in working-class jobs; and they have common cause in needing stronger pay bargaining rights.

Highest earners (1.3 million people)

Real pay for workers in jobs paying more than twice median pay (over £25.56 an hour) has increased by 4% since 2010.

While the percentage rise is slightly behind the lowest earners, the cash increases are much higher than for any other workers.

Working-class life in Britain today

The research is part of a TUC project looking at the opportunities on offer for the working classes in Britain today.

The TUC says the findings of today’s analysis show that austerity has had a bigger impact on many working-class jobs than higher-paid work. And without stronger pay bargaining rights, it will be very hard for those workers to gain fairer pay.

The findings also show that women, and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers are more likely to be in lower-paid work.

The proportion of the overall workforce that is female is 49%. But women account for 64% of the lowest earners (those paid less than 75% of average pay) and just 39% of those in jobs paid at least twice average pay.

The BAME proportion of the overall workforce is 12%. But BAME workers account for 15% of the lowest earners, and just 10% of the highest earners.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Every job should pay a fair wage that keeps up with the cost of living. But many people in working-class jobs have had their real pay cut, while the best paid got rises.

“It’s not right that people who have slogged away for a decade to rescue Britain from the banking crisis are still paying the price. Working-class values like hard work should be rewarded with decent pay and security.

“The government should concentrate on rebuilding good working-class jobs with decent pay. We need a new deal at work with stronger rights, starting by giving everyone the right to be represented by a union so they can bargain for better pay.”

Editors note

- TUC pay analysis

UK real wage growth banded by occupational hourly pay from 2002-2010 and 2010-2018

Pay band

Pay range in 2018

Number of people in 2018

Change in hourly pay 2002-2010

Change in hourly pay 2010-2018

Proportion who are BAME

Proportion who are female

Low earners Below 75% average earnings

Below £9.55 an hour








Low-middle earners Between 76% and 100% average earnings

Between £9.56 and £12.73 an hour








Middle-high earners between 100% and 200% average earnings

Between £12.74 and £25.45 an hour








High earners above 200% average earnings

Over £25.46 an hour








- TUC analysis of ONS ASHE data from the annual survey of hours and earnings from 2002 to 2018. The analysis looks at median hourly pay by occupation. Average pay is based on the median hourly wage for all jobs. Pay has been adjusted by CPI and is in 2018 prices.

- Further analysis on class and pay can be found in a research note that will be published on the TUC website today (Saturday).

- Union wage advantage: The benefits of collective bargaining are clear in the wage advantage enjoyed by trade union members. On average, pay for union members was 7.9% higher in 2018 than for non-unionised workers in comparable jobs. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of trade union members rose by over 100,000 to 6.35 million. More detailed figures on the union age advantage by occupation can be found in table 1.9 here:

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