The Office For National Statistics says that, in real terms, the average worker is 62% better off than they were in 1986.

This figure from the ONS takes into account price rises based on the Consumer Prices Index over the period.

Between 1986 and 2011 wages on average rose from £3.87p an hour to £12.62p an hour, an increase of 226%. But bear in mind that gold rose from about £292.50p to £1.039 an ounce over the same period (up 255%) and the average house according to Nationwide cost about £38,251 in 1986 and £166,597 in 2011 (up 335%).

But in the same period the cost of living rose so that what would cost £1 in 1986 cost £2.01p in 2011.

But it has been the highest earners who have benefitted over the decades. The pay of the top earners has doubled, whilst those just above the ten percentile only saw an increase of 47%.

Those people right at the bottom had their incomes boosted by 70%, mainly due to the introduction of the minimum wage in 1999.

Whereas those right at the top, in the upper one percentile, saw their incomes increase by 117%.

This Podcast from the ONS explains it with graphs and pictures.

Money Column by Ian Britton (FreeFoto.com)

Money Column by Ian Britton (FreeFoto.com)

It looks like those workers who sat between the minimum wage and the average wage fared the worst – and did so through both colours of government.

The gap between rich and poor was the largest in London, no surprise there, with the ratio between highest and lowest earners being 16.2 times. In Wales where the ratio is the smallest the highest earners only got seven times more than the lowest paid.

The ONS says that aircraft pilots and engineers earned the most in 2011 and waiters/waitresses and bar staff get the least.

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