Workers in the UK are earning no more than they were 10 years ago, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
After adjusting for inflation, it said pay levels peaked in 2009.
Between then and 2012 the ONS said pay had fallen by 3% in real terms.
At first glance we might think “CHRIST ALMIGHTY! We have been stagnating for TEN YEARS! AAAARGH!”. And on one level this is of course totally awful. The human spirit needs change and momentum. If it didn’t we wouldn’t have bothered breaking out of serfdom in the middle ages, we wouldn’t have bothered embracing the industrial revolution, we wouldn’t have mucked about with science and technology or going to the moon and all that. I know from my own personal experience that the failure to move forward can be fairly soul-destroying if it is allowed to be.
But on the other hand, we’re in [and hopefully nearly at the end of] the worst economic situation since the 1920s and 30s, and the average person is only 3% worse off than they were at the peak of the imaginary boom? I wouldn’t be counting that as a doomsday scenario. As a society we’ve devised economic and political policies which have enabled most of us to stay employed, to stay in our homes, to stay well-fed. Great nations have not turned against their neighbours. We’ve had one huge financial crisis after another and we’ve only lost 3% of our income? I would say that is cause to celebrate!
Nobody likes losing income. Everyone likes to get a pay-rise. It’s been painful, especially for those who have lost their jobs or homes. The recovery has not been forthcoming. But recent busts were far sharper and resulted in far more people being thrown out of work and homes. Let’s be brutally frank: on average we haven’t done so badly this time around.
Let’s put it into perspective. On an average UK salary of around £25k, a 3% loss means you have to cut out one or two Easyjet weekends away, or maybe delay upgrading your laptop. It’s not soup kitchens and camping in Central Park.
If we really are about to turn the corner, if this is the bottom of the valley, then I don’t think we can moan too much.