Although average pay in Britain was pounds 400.10 a week in April 1999, the small proportion of the workforce on huge salaries distorted the figure. Half of all employees earned less than pounds 333.80 a week, according to the independent researcher Incomes Data Services (IDS).
Nurses on average earn just over this median figure before tax, and management consultants twice as much. But the average is raised by the 10 per cent who earn more than pounds 650 a week or pounds 33,800 a year. MPs are now among the top tenth of earners. Their basic salary of just over pounds 47,000 a year puts them on pounds 902 a week before tax, and means they take home more money than 96 per cent of their constituents.
A Premiership footballer does staggeringly better, earning an average of pounds 33,000 a week - the equivalent of 100 motor mechanics. The bulk of the working population earns between pounds 180 and pounds 400 a week (or pounds 9,500 to pounds 20,800 a year), according to the report.
Referring to the fact that average earnings in 1999 were calculated at pounds 20,861 a year, IDS commented: "When people hear this figure it is frequently met with disbelief. `That's far too high,' they say. Or you hear: `I don't really know anyone on that sort of money.'
"Such reactions are understandable. The average is as high as it is because it is pulled upwards by the highest earners in the economy."
In fact, two-thirds of all full-time employees earn less than this average. Part-time employees, of whom there are nearly 7 million, are often paid lower hourly rates. And the unemployed, of course, are on lower incomes still.
Another article in the IDS report for November looks at the impact of the national minimum wage, currently pounds 3.60 an hour, on which the Low Pay Commission is due to report next month. It poses the question: "Will there be an uprating mechanism which is determined by an independent body, or will it be in the hands of politicians?"
The minimum wage would correspond to gross pay of pounds 144 for a 40-hour week, or less than one-sixth of the earnings of an MP.
Either way, the low-paid have a long way to catch up.Reuse content