Pay rates in 'real world' misrepresented by media

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The Independent Online
Media luvvies, newspaper journalists and MPs are guilty of making "silly assumptions" about how much people earn outside their political hothouse.

So says the normally sober pay research group Incomes Data Services, which registers exasperation that our elected representatives believe their basic salary of pounds 35,000 a year puts them in the middle- income bracket.

In fact, the pay cheques enjoyed by MPs place them in the top 10 per cent of earners, the research group points out today in the latest IDS Report.

"Too many of the very small number of politicians, journalists and other commentators who move in each others' circles have salaries that are roughly comparable. They think they are in the middle.

"In fact, one of the reasons that MPs feel hard done by is that their basic salaries are often lower than those of senior correspondents who are interviewing them."

The study refers to a recent interview on Radio 4's The World This Weekend in which Clare Short, Labour's transport spokeswoman, suggested in an interview with the presenter James Cox that people on salaries like hers should expect to pay higher taxes. She incurred the wrath of the party leadership for saying so.

IDS says that during the discussion pounds 35,000 was deemed to be middle income. "The only sense in which it might be a middle income is that it might have been the average salary of the people in the studio at the time."

It is almost certain, however, that IDS has actually underestimated the total earnings of those concerned.

The research group says that pounds 35,000 a year - pounds 673 a week - is exactly twice the average earnings level and well into the top decile of earnings of pounds 542 a week.

The official New Earnings Survey for 1995 gives average earnings for full-timers of pounds 336 a week or pounds 17,472 a year.

If part-timers were included then the average salary would be considerably lower, the study says. The Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates that around 62 per cent of people are below the average.

MPs and journalists, however, can only stand in awe of the pay of the real fat-cats. Apart from an FA Cup winner's medal, the report points out that Ryan Giggs, of Manchester United, enjoys an estimated salary of pounds 15,000 a week.