Wage growth falling further behind inflation, industrial unrest growing

Date : 16 November 2022

New ONS data shows that pay in the UK continues to grow – quite rapidly by historical standards. Average weekly earnings in September 2022 were £621, including bonuses, up 6.0% year-on-year.

There is, however, a differential between public and private sectors. Public sector pay growth in September was 2.1% year-on-year, versus 7.0% in the private sector. This disparity has been building since around March 2021.

In spite of relatively strong pay growth, driven by high demand and limited supply, most workers still see their wages falling behind the cost of living, meaning a “real terms” reduction.

Using the wider RPI measure of inflation, which gives wide coverage of housing cost, “real wages” have been falling for at least a year and are now down about 6.4% versus 2021. The slightly more limited CPI measure suggests that real wages are down 4.0% year-on-year.

Click chart to enlarge

The same ONS data also gives a picture of industrial relations in the UK. Historic coverage is incomplete, because surveys halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the study recommenced in 2022.

The data available suggests that industrial disputes have been unusually prevalent in the UK over Summer 2022, with more stoppages, more days lost and more workers involved than was usual before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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