Sunday, 27 April 2014


It's Sunday. But it's financial. So it's Friday Financial with JULIAN SAYER.

Why and how inflation and falling wages hasn't bothered the wealthy.

This week I want to look at inflation and the cost of living crisis. There was a lot of fanfare last week with the announcement that wage increases have finally passed the rate of inflation. The full details of the announcement can be found here;

On the surface it sounds great, the bedrock of a recovery is in place and good times are just around the corner. But, if you look into what has happened over the last forty years and the consequences over the coming years, then a different picture emerges.

These figures include all the high ranking salaried jobs mainly in the banking and financial sector that we the tax payer so happily saved back in 2008. These salaries have and are rising faster than any other. These million pounds salaries and their huge bonuses will adversely affect this data, boosting the percentage higher and disproportionately. Our Government does little to cap them as it encourages the City to make more and more money. Just look at the figures involved, who else gets million pounds salaries and two hundred per cent bonuses?

Wages for the average person have stagnated and inflation has eroded the spending power that this reduced income can buy. For example average earnings adjusted for inflation have dropped 7.2 per cent since 2010 – leaving millions more than £2,000 a year worse off. This is where the economy has been hurt.

In my research I came across this article from the Daily Telegraph, from which I gleaned the following startling facts;

The research, using data provided by the Office for National Statistics, found that draught lager had risen from 14p a pint in 1973 to £2.87 last year. Petrol prices were 17 times as high, with the price of a litre of diesel growing to around £1.41, from 8p in 1973. Wages have simply not kept up. From my own research from 1994 to the present day average annual real earnings have only increased by 9.49%, while the retail price index (RPI) has increased by 42.38%. Basically, the average salary can buy a lot less than they did in 1994. You are officially worse off. This data was taken from these figures;

The official method of measuring inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Retail Price Index (RPI) was once used and is often still referred to. Both track the prices of things we commonly use – food, clothing, transport, energy and so on.

Money supply which can fuel inflation has grown faster than the economy. In 1971 there were 31 billion pounds in circulation. Now there are just under £2,100 billion (£2.1 trillion), most of it coming in Quantitive Easing (QE) in the last eight years. That is a sixty seven fold increase and is a very important factor to understand. Are we sixty seven times richer? Some people are. But most of us aren't. This money supply has nearly all ended up in the assets of the well off.

Research by Positive Money shows that only about ten per cent of newly-created money has gone into the kind of consumer goods tracked by CPI.  So all CPI does is measure the effects of about ten per cent of money creation.

Positive Money's research shows that thirteen per cent of newly-created money has gone into real businesses that create jobs and boost economic growth; thirty seven per cent into financial markets and forty per cent into residential and commercial property. So the staggering amount (77%) has gone into finance and property, money going to money. The rich have had a field day.

Is it any wonder the financial sector has grown so disproportionately large and powerful, or that the British are so obsessed with houses? That's where the money's gone, the wealth gap just got bigger.

Wages have not kept up with the sixty seven-fold increase in money supply. They've gone from about £2,000 in 1971 to around £25,000 today. Many families now find themselves having to work longer hours, with both husband and wife working just to raise a family, they are taking on larger debts and having fewer children just to maintain an ordinary middle class lifestyle. Many of their children face unprecedented levels of debt and, in many parts of the country, will never be able to buy a house. In next week's blog I will examine just how impossible it is to buy a house now and how inflation, rents and the lack of house building is conspiring against you.

This Government quickly realised that housing market is an easy way to try and stimulate the economy, and has done everything in its power to create another housing bubble. Another worrying outlook is that the last time countries were loaded with Government debt as we are at the moment, they basically inflated that debt away. The best example of this was after the Second World War.

Expect interest rates to go up, they want them up in the long run in order to get the debt down over time. Indeed if you look at our projected debts for the next few years in inflation-adjusted terms (as opposed to a ratio of GDP) you can see the reason why inflation must continue in the UK, and why it will almost certainly will be helped higher by Mark Carney in some way. For lots of people mortgage payments will become a burden over the next ten years. In my view before we all rush to load up on ultra-cheap mortgages, we need to check we’re in a job that is certain to be awarded inflation-linked pay rises, and this government does have a good track record at that!

What chance does a young person have now to live a normal life? They come out of university with tens of thousand pounds worth of debt, and now face a jobs market where wages are suppressed, and an impossible task to buy an over inflated priced house. Even if they can muster up the deposit, the income multiples and questionnaires make it near impossible.

However, in the parallel universe things are just rosy. Today, the world’s 200 richest people made $13.9 billion. In one single day, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Keep on voting, you deserve it.


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