Money Tight for Worst Paid in Midlands; Political Editor Jonathan Walker Takes an In-Depth Look at New Data on Salaries in the West Midlands - and Finds a Host of Inequalities

The Birmingham Post (England), February 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

Money Tight for Worst Paid in Midlands; Political Editor Jonathan Walker Takes an In-Depth Look at New Data on Salaries in the West Midlands - and Finds a Host of Inequalities


Byline: Jonathan Walker

We may well be ''all in it together", according to the Government, but the truth is that the economic crisis hit some of us harder than others.

Employees on modest salaries saw their wages drop last year as businesses asked workers to make sacrifices during the economic downturn.

But it was all smiles for those at the top of the pay scale - who continued to pocket significant rises.

The variable fortunes of West Midlands employees are revealed by the Government's official salary survey, published by the Office for National Statistics.

It shows that while private sector employees were feeling the pinch, public sector workers were largely immune to the effects of the downturn last year and continued to receive pay rises.

The survey also highlights the continuing pay gap that exists between men and women. But while women earn far less, they at least enjoyed a modest pay rise last year, while men saw their salaries fall.

The figures were revealed in the 2010 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Our analysis of the figures examined the gross annual salaries earned by people in full time employment.

It's often said that the West Midlands has been hit harder than other regions by the economic downturn, but this usually refers to the fact that unemployment rose more quickly in the region than elsewhere.

However, the survey suggests that even people in work have been hit harder than those in some other parts of the country.

The median salary for a full time worker in the UK rose by 0.3 per cent last year, bringing gross annual pay up to pounds 25,879. This was a cut in real terms, when inflation is taken into account.

But salaries in the West Midlands also fell in cash terms, with median pay dropping by 0.2 per cent to pounds 23,902.

It suggests that not only are incomes lower in the region than in some other parts of the UK, but the pay gap between the regions is growing, rather than falling.

And a closer analysis of the figures shows that the pain was not shared equally.

The lowest paid ten per cent of workers in full time jobs were paid pounds 13,271 or less in the West Midlands - a cut of 64 per cent compared to the previous year.

And those in the bottom 30 per cent were paid pounds 18,316 or less - down pounds 150 on the year before.

But these cuts are in stark contrast to the pay rises enjoyed by those at the top of the pay scale. The top-paid 10 per cent of people in full-time employment received pounds 46,643 or more, an increase of pounds 1,253 on the year before.

MP Jack Dromey (Lab, Erdington), a former deputy general secretary of the Unite union and now a shadow minister in Ed Miliband's Labour team, said the figures illustrated the need for more transparency in the private sector.

He said: "The growing gap between those at the top of the income scale and those at the bottom is unacceptable.

"The sad reality is that the less you are paid the less likely you are to get a pay increase. Indeed, pay for most people in Britain is either static or falling."

The Government is pushing councils to publish salary details for higher paidstaff.

But Mr Dromey has called in the House of Commons for similar rules for businesses with contracts worth more than pounds 250,000 to supply goods or services to local government. But there was one section of the workforce that escaped the pay cull. The annual survey suggests that for people on modest incomes, the best way of avoiding a pay cut was to get a job in the public sector.

Official figures show that there were 352,000 full-time public sector jobs in the West Midlands last year, offering a median salary of pounds 26,555. This was a pay increase of 2.3 per cent on the year before.

The private sector was responsible for 912,000 full time jobs in the region.

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Money Tight for Worst Paid in Midlands; Political Editor Jonathan Walker Takes an In-Depth Look at New Data on Salaries in the West Midlands - and Finds a Host of Inequalities
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