Is the pay in your job keeping up with inflation?

High Street, Birmingham, during January sales, England, UK
Inflation in the UK is driving up prices, with pay in most industries failing to keep up (PA)

Inflation in the UK is at its highest in 41 years, reaching a staggering 11.1% in the year to October 2022, largely driven by soaring food prices and fuel costs.

For most people soaring prices have fast been outstripping wages, with disastrous consequences for household budgets.

According to new research by Which?, 3 in 10 single parents have been skipping meals to help make ends meet.

The price of food, housing and bills are rising steeply (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The price of food, housing and bills are rising steeply (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

Regular pay rose by 5.7% in the year to September, which, excluding the pandemic, was the fastest rate of growth since 2000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However even this increase is not enough to keep up with soaring prices: when adjusted for inflation, real wages fell by 2.7%.

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The price of goods and services is rising faster than pay, leaving workers worse off (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The price of goods and services is rising faster than pay, leaving workers worse off (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
Close-up of flames on gas hob
Soaring energy costs, triggered by the Ukraine war, are contributing to soaring inflation. (Getty Images)

When the inflation rate outstrips your wage growth, you effectively lose money because you need to spend a higher proportion of your wages to buy the same goods.

However, not all workers in Britain are having this problem, with pay for people in the professional and scientific industry continuing to match rising costs, according to a new ONS report.

This includes workers in legal services, management, engineering and scientific research jobs, whose pay has sat above inflation since 2018.

It is the only industry to see pay rise above inflation since May, with wage growth sitting at 10.1% from July to September 2022.

This means average wages in the industry in this period were 10.1% higher than the same period the previous year, according to the ONS.

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Wage growth against inflation (ONS)
ONS figures show how the professional and scientific sector is leading in wage growth. (ONS)

Meanwhile, other industries such as public administration and education, pay growth has been below inflation since the second half of 2021.

For other industries, including property, information and communication, retail, and finance, pay largely sat above inflation in recent years, but inflation started to outpace it from the start of 2022.

Wage growth has been the lowest for people working public sector jobs, standing at 2.2% in July to September.

That compares to 6.6% for the private sector - the largest gap between public and private pay growth this century, excluding the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public sector jobs in education, administration, arts and recreation, mining and power and water, have been hit the hardest.

The health industry has seen higher pay growth in comparison to these, but it has still fallen behind inflation, with pay increasing by 4.7% in July to September, compared to 2.9% in education and 3.6% in public administration.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at the House of Commons in London, Britain, November 23, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
Rishi Sunak has promised to stabilise the economy and restore confidence to boost growth, but Labour says he's overseeing a "cycle of stagnation". (Reuters)

Even pay in the lucrative finance sector fell below inflation in the first three months of 2022.

But higher bonuses have cushioned the blow, with people in the sector's total income growing faster than prices until the three months to June. From then until September, it sat below inflation, at 6.3%.

As inflation started rising steeply at the end last year, total pay growth in finance (including bonuses) rose steeply to 15.9% in October to December 2021.

That's the highest rate since the cap of bankers' bonuses was introduced in the UK in 2013.

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Speaking at this week's Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, Rishi Sunak accepted that "things are tough right now", but said the goal of his government's Autumn Statement is to "grip inflation and balance the books".

The prime minister told business leaders: "I am not just here to solve problems, I want to build a better country."

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The Labour Party has said change isn't coming fast enough, with the opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer telling the CBI that a "vicious cycle of stagnation," has formed under the Tories' watch.