Saturday 13 May 2017

£100bn a year is missing from our high streets thanks to 50 years of pay squeezes

A pound’s worth of product is not worth a pound when you’ve made it. It’s worth a pound when someone has bought it. That’s why Britain needs a pay rise.

There’s no rise in UK sales without a rise in UK incomes. That’s why we’ve not had a recovery. Only a recovery in credit card debt!

Whichever party understands that, vote for them.

Wages have flatlined since July 2005, says the Office for National Statistics. But it’s worse than that. Notoriously, the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) data never include the earnings of the self employed, which have been getting worse, so that means there has been an overall decline.

If you’ve been one of the lucky ones who have seen his/her earnings increase, you have a counterpart who saw the opposite. As the graph tells us, the more you earned the more someone else didn’t. So if you’re trying to sell them something, you’re in trouble too.

Those people earning less: are they all lazy and stupid? Nigh on half the workforce?!

A balance must be struck between earnings rising too fast (businesses and their customers can’t afford it. So the business goes bust) and too slow or not at all (businesses can fill their shelves, but nobody can afford to buy the damn stuff. So the business goes bust). That balance has been lost since the 1970s. For too long wages, as a percentage of the nation’s GDP, have been falling.


That 10% drop in the UK’s wages bill, compared to 50 years ago, equates to around £100bn a year in spending being taken off our high streets.

Now take a look at the list of sectors where wages are falling. If your business depends on selling to people working in those sectors, you’d better pray they get a pay rise.

Yes, I said pray. Because businesses, in competition, find it genuinely difficult to coordinate a pay rise lest someone breaks ranks and win-wins by keeping pay down while selling to those who got the rise. That’s why unions do us all a favour, by coordinating that pay rise. Government too, by legislating that rise.

The Resolution Foundation, digging into Office for National Statistics data on wages, says around 40 per cent of the workforce are in sectors where pay is falling in real terms.

This is despite another “good performance” on jobs, with fast growth in hours worked, employment remaining at a record high and unemployment falling by 45,000. Although, notoriously again, the official employment data says anyone who has worked a measly one hour a week is “employed”. One hour! What a job that must be!

We’re wasting our time if jobs are being created, but incomes aren’t rising. We’re driving with the hand brake on.

“But having a job matters more than having a pay rise!” says the tub thumping right, who see low pay as a way of creating jobs. These are the same people who say “Those Commies, they think full employment matters more than growing the economy.” They’re asking for the same thing as the Commies now. Beautiful! Someone should tell them that if wages don’t rise, economies simply don’t grow *.


* ...except, of course, through immigration. More people, more GDP. Simples. No wonder neither New Labour nor the Tories cut immigration. Immigration is not the cause of our problems **, it’s the only thing that’s making our economy look as though it has a future.

** Do you seriously think if the population had risen through more British babies instead of immigrants, those past governments would have built the 250,000 houses a year we need, increased spending on the NHS and schools to shorten those queues, and raised those wages?

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