Have wages fallen in the past ten years?

Published: 19th Apr 2017

In brief

Claim

Wages are lower today than they were ten years ago.

Conclusion

Yes, the official headline measure of median weekly wages for full time workers is lower than ten years ago.

“Yet she can’t explain why people’s wages are lower today than they were ten years ago...”

Jeremy Corbyn, 19 April 2017

The official headline measure of median weekly wages for full time workers is lower now than ten years ago.

Although the average worker is earning more money... it will buy them less. Wages have risen each year but prices have risen faster.

When prices rise it’s called inflation. If you adjust wages for price inflation then you can see their ‘real’ value.

The real value of the median weekly wage for full time employees fell every year between 2008 and 2014.

It has grown again since 2014, although more recent published data suggests that the pace might have slowed over the past year.

There are lots of different ways you could slice and dice the jobs market to see how earnings have changed. We’ve quoted median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees since that’s the preferred headline measure used by Office for National Statistics.

The median wage is the wage of the middle-earning person. Among other things, focusing on median rather than mean average wage means that the picture isn’t disproportionately affected by top earners.

More recent data is available for mean average wages. Broadly, the picture is much the same.

But it’s still the national average across the UK as a whole. It might not match the view from specific regions, industries or age groups (for example) as the chief economist at the Bank of England discussed last June.

In theory, average wages could fall without any one person getting a pay cut, because new entrants might be getting less than before while older higher earners continue to retire. So these figures don't necessarily show what's happened to most people individually, but they do give a sense of what's happened overall.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of Prime Minister's Questions. Read the roundup.


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