United Kingdom real earnings down for first time since 2014

Higher food and transport costs have propelled the cost of living measure to such a high level, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

The UK's gender pay gap fell to the lowest since records began in April - although it still stood at 9.1 per cent, according to official figures.

Overall earnings rose the most for lowest paid workers, with those in the bottom ten percent receiving a 3.5 percent hike. The median - middle - amount earned was £550 a week.

Median weekly earnings grew by 2.2 per cent to £550 a week, but they are down by 0.4 per cent on a year ago when inflation is taken into account, according to a report published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Andrew Sentance, a senior economic adviser at PwC, said: "This latest rise in inflation will add to the squeeze on the spending power of consumers and is likely to prolong the period of sluggish growth we are now seeing here in the United Kingdom". Full-time workers in London earned the most with a weekly wage of £692, while Wales, the North East, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and the Humber, and East Midlands all have, on average, earnings of £500.

"This year saw the joint highest rise since the economic downturn in 2008, in cash terms".

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady wants to see more progress on equality.

"It has also failed women, who are still being paid on average almost 20 per cent less than men".

"Companies shouldn't just be made to publish their gender pay gaps".

"The failure of nominal wage growth to match increases in inflation has left real weekly earnings down on the year for the first time since 2014. The lowest paid 10% of workers and those in some regions like the East Midlands still saw real increases, while other areas saw decreases".

"The next Labour government will immediately give millions a pay rise by introducing a £10 per hour real living wage, scrapping the public-sector pay cap and taking action to close the gender pay gap".

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening, said: "Eliminating the gender pay gap is key to building a stronger economy where everyone plays by the same rules".

Ms O'Grady said: "The government needs to crank up the pressure on employers".

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