BBC fails on wages even as unemployment falls

Wed, 12/11/2014 - 12:44 -- nick

Today's unemployment figures have shown a welcome fall - but wages are still going down in a race to the bottom with benefits.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the jobless rate is now at 6%, or 1.96 million, down by 115,000 compared to three months ago.

There are still 1.3 million part-time workers who want to work more hours, and self-employment - up 279,000 over the last year - continues to be used as a substitute for real work by too many.

If you don't believe this, take a look at the pay figures.

According to the ONS, the average self-employed person receives £10,700 each year, around £3,000 less than a full-time minimum wage worker.

Those working for themselves are likely to be in poverty, and David Cameron's belief that we are experiencing a wave of entrepreneurship is flatly contradicted by earnings figures which show far more struggle than success.

Things weren't much better for regular workers though - total pay went up by only 1.0% in the last year, while inflation still outstrips it at 1.2%.

You would never have worked this out from the BBC website's coverage, which claimed that:

"Figures also showed that one measure of average earnings growth beat inflation for the first time in five years."

Technically this is true. On one measure - the one that nobody uses because it only considers part of total pay - earnings did beat inflation.

Real pay, including bonuses which have become so widespread that 97% of DWP staff receive them, is still falling behind the cost of living, and has been for years.

Earnings have become a key issue for unemployed people, partly because they need to be able to afford to take work, but partly due to the fact that falling wages have been used as a justification for cutting welfare.

When Iain Duncan Smith announced that benefit rises would be capped at 1% for three years from 2013, apparently because it was 'fair' that they didn't outstrip wage rises, we questioned what would happen if and when pay started going up.

We aren't there yet, but the direction of travel suggests it won't be too long before this happens, and how will Smith deal with this when benefits aren't keeping pace with inflation but wages are outstripping it?

Experience suggests he will simply change the definition of 'fairness' in a way that covers his wilful neglect of those he is supposed to be protecting but whom he appears to prefer to punish.

The real cost of low pay was revealed by Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, who said: "Many of the new jobs are precarious and badly paid while the real value of take-home pay for the rest of the workforce is 13% below pre-recession levels."

While the government celebrates, most people in the country, working and workless, are getting poorer.