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UK workers suffer 2.5 per cent real-term pay cut, while top CEOs get 4 per cent rise

The average UK worker took a £700 real-terms pay cut last year, while top CEOs enjoyed massive pay hikes.

A young woman protests against the cost of living and climate crisis. Image: Alisdaire Hickson/Flickr

The average UK worker took a £700 real-terms pay cut last year, while top CEOs enjoyed massive pay hikes.

Prices soared in 2022 due to a combination of Russia’s war in Ukraine, rising energy prices, and the fallout from the Covid pandemic and Brexit, but wages stagnated. New analysis from Oxfam shows that the average British worker’s wages dropped by 2.5 per cent in 2022, after earnings were adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the salaries of the highest earning 100 CEOs jumped by 4.4 per cent.

The data – released on International Workers’ Day – reveals an “economic model of misery,” warned Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam’s head of advocacy.

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“While we know that the UK is in the midst of a searing cost of living crisis, seeing just how much workers across the country are losing is astonishing,” she said.

“Apparently top bosses didn’t get the memo that we should all just accept being poorer. 

“It’s clear that the cost of living crisis is actually an inequality crisis, one where CEO and shareholders siphon off the profits and get richer by the day while working people struggle and can’t afford the very basics.”

How much did workers lose in real terms last year?

Inflation reached 11 per cent over 2022. This means the cost of normal items surged by more than a tenth over the year.

But wages did not keep pace with inflation. According to Oxfam research – based on figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and government statistics agencies – UK workers would have earned £23 billion more last year if wages had increased in line with soaring prices.

This amounts to £715 each – or the equivalent of 5.3 days’ work.

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But the highest earners won’t be tightening their belts anytime soon.

The UK’s 100 top-earning CEOs were paid £3.4 million on average in 2022, the Oxfam analysis reveals, and earn 140 times more than the average British worker.

The pay rise for top CEOs was 12.3 per cent, before being adjusted for inflation down to 4.4 percent.

The global cost of living crisis is about distribution of wealth, explained Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre who provided the UK CEO pay data.

 “Huge executive pay awards demonstrate the great wealth that exists globally,” he said.

“This could deliver far higher living standards for billions of people across the world if it were shared more sensibly instead of flowing in such vast sums to a super-rich elite who take far more than they need.”  

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