CSO reviews 80 years of historical earnings - Real average industrial weekly earnings increase by 319%

Real earnings may have increased by almost 320% in the last 77 years but fell by 7% from 2009 to 2011, the largest fall since the Second World War.

The Central Statistics Office has reviewed historical earnings between 1938-2015 and related them to relevant events in the country’s economic history.

It has presented the data in nominal values and in real values, adjusted for inflation to 2015 prices.

It found real average industrial weekly earnings increased by 319% from 1938 to 2015, an average annual growth rate in earnings of 2% per annum over the 77-year period.

However, there have been significant blips in the increases: for example, while real weekly earnings were placed at the equivalent in today’s money of €163.50 (a nominal value of €2.94) in 1938, they fell to €117.88 in 1943 at the height of the Second World War.

Other blips occurred in 1973 due to the oil crisis and in the 1980s and 2008 due to recessions.

Workers were also toiling longer each week for their wages in the first half of the last century.

Average weekly paid hours of workers in the industry sector increased from 44.1 hours per week in the 1940s to an average of 45 hours per week in the 1950s.

“Since the 1950s, each decade has seen a fall in the average working week, dropping to 39.7 hours by the 2000s,” the CSO said.

“The largest fall was seen in the 1970s when hours decreased by 4.1%, from 44.2 hours in the 1960s to 42.4 hours in the 1970s.”

The passing of almost 80 years has seen the gender pay gap narrow, although not to anywhere near the level that many would have hoped.

“The gender pay gap (GPG) was above 40% in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and fell slightly to 39.5% in the 1970s,” said the CSO. “The GPG then declined in the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s to stand at 25% in the 2000s and at 22.6% in 2014.

“Although the GPG has fallen considerably over the years between 1940 and 2015, the difference in earnings between the genders remains significant.”

So what does one’s money earn now, compared to 1938?

According to the CSO, a loaf of bread cost 5.5d (5 and 1/2 pence) in 1938 when the average industrial wage was £2 6s 4d (2 pounds, 6 shillings and 4 pence). Thus, a loaf of bread accounted for 1% of the average weekly industrial wage.

In 1968, average weekly industrial earnings were £14 2s 5d and a loaf cost 1s 10.5d — 0.7% of the weekly wage.

By 2000, average weekly industrial earnings were £364.80 and a loaf of bread cost 78p, accounting for 0.2% of the weekly wage.


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