Pocket money falls short for first time in a decade

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The Independent Online
Children's pocket money has declined for the first time in a decade, possibly indicating financial prudence in the run-up to the general election, and raising the spectre of bitter strikes and demonstrations in homes across the country.

After rising steadily year-on-year since 1987, the latest Wall's Pocket Money Monitor for 1997 reveals that the weekly rate has fallen to just pounds 2.33. This is a 7 per cent decrease on last year, and is a blow to children who remember the dramatic 35 per cent increase in 1996.

The Wall's Monitor reveals that children are becoming increasingly shrewd when it comes to their finances, with 36 per cent saving their money compared with just 4 per cent when the monitor was first started in 1975.

Rather than spending money on treats and sweets, children are now more likely to invest their money in a bank or building society. Many attribute this impressive fiscal awareness to the effects of the Thatcher government, but the number owning shares or investing in Personal Equity Plans goes unrecorded.

"Children are taking a much more responsible attitude towards their pocket money than their parents probably did when they were children," Sue Keane, a consumer psychologist, said.

The Wall's Monitor, for which 1,323 parents of children aged between five and sixteen were interviewed, also reveals some interesting regional differences. Scottish parents were the most generous, giving their children an average of pounds 2.95 each, 66 pence more than their nearest rivals in the North-west, and 92 pence ahead of those in the poorest region, the North and North-east. Scottish children's total weekly income, which included earnings from jobs, gifts and pocket money, was also the highest, at pounds 5.14, well above their closest rivals in the North and North-east on pounds 4.62.

Nationally, the total weekly income was also down on last year by 7 per cent.

Children in Wales and the west of England were the overall poorest, coming last for handouts and lowest but one for pocket money.

"Children may be wiser in the Nineties, but no matter how much they save, children are still children, and they continue to use their pocket money to treat themselves," said Lizanne Byrne, Wall's Pocket Money Monitor Researcher.

Wall's also has news which may cause rows within many households across the country: girls are now receiving substantially more pocket money (pounds 2.48) than boys (a mere pounds 2.19) - which gives them their strongest ever lead.