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Nearly 6 in 10 say living standards have not got better this year – with nearly 4 in 10 saying they have got worse
  • Over two-fifths report having to cut back on essentials 

  • More than a quarter having to borrow to cover unexpected bills 

  • TUC accuses government of being “out of touch” with ongoing cost of living struggles 

Just 1 in 7 (14%) think their living standards have improved this year, according to a new TUC poll published today (Tuesday). 

The poll of 2,137 adults – carried out for the union body by YouGov – shows that almost 4 in 10 (38%) think their living standards have got worse in 2024 – including almost a third (32%) of people who voted Conservative in the 2019 election. 

And nearly 6 in 10 (58%) respondents think their living standards have got worse or there has been no change and their living standards “were bad before and still are”. 

Pressure on family budgets 

The poll also reveals the pressure on incomes from the ongoing cost of living crisis: 

  • Spending on essentials: 4 in 10 (42%) say they’ve cut back on essentials like food and utility spending this year. And this number rises to nearly 1 in 2 (47%) for women. 

  • Cutting back on non-essentials: 6 in 10 (60%) say they have cut back on non-essential spending like dining out and entertainment since the beginning of the year. 

  • Falling behind on bills: Around a fifth (19%) of respondents say they have fallen behind on household bills this year – a number that rises to over 1 in 4 (28%) for people aged 18-24. 

  • Taking on additional debt: Over quarter (27%) say have they taken out debt (loans, credit) to cover unexpected bills since the start of the year. This number shoots up to over a third (37%) for adults aged 25-49 – when lots of families raise children.  

“Out of touch” 

The TUC says the poll findings show how ”out of touch” the government is with ordinary people’s struggles. 

The Prime Minister and Chancellor have repeatedly claimed that the economy “has turned the corner”. And last month health minister Andrea Leadsom declared the cost of living crisis is ending and “everyone is cheered up”

The TUC highlighted on Friday that UK families have suffered the highest price rises (inflation) in the G7 over the last two years – leaving many budgets stretched to breaking point. 

The union body says the pressure on household incomes has been compounded by 14 years of pay stagnation with real wages still worth less than in 2008. 

The TUC estimates that people would be over £10,000 a year better off, on average, if pay had grown at pre-crisis trends. 

And according to analysis of the latest OBR forecasts average household debt is set to increase by £1,600 this year. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“UK households have been hammered by the highest price rises in the G7. So the idea that people should be feeling cheerful for inflation easing is for the birds. 

“This polling shows how out of touch this Conservative government is with people’s struggles. 

“The reason this cost of living crisis has hit families so hard is because wages have flatlined over the last 14 years. 

“Pay packets are still worth less today than in 2008, and working people are on course to end this parliament poorer than at the start. 

“This a damning indictment of the Tories’ economic record. 

“We need a new approach – a proper plan to get wages rising by investing in UK industry. And we need a new deal for working people, so they get a fair share of the wealth they create.” 

Editors note
  • About the poll: The poll was carried out by YouGov between the 13th and 14th of May 2024. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,137. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th - 5th April 2024.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).  

  • About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 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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