General decline: UK living standards over the last four years

15th March 2024

This report analyses the trajectory of living standards across the UK over the past four years, since the last general election, through tracking the trajectory of real mean and median weekly wages from 2019 to 2023, across and in each of the updated 2024 UK parliamentary constituencies, as well as wider regions.

At a glance:

• All UK regions are, in real terms, worse off than they were in 2019. Some of the greatest declines in real median weekly wages can be found in the South East (-7%), North East (-6%), London (-6%), and the North West (-5%).

• While these broader geographical regions all declined since 2019, at the local level 23% of UK parliamentary constituencies saw a real terms increase in median real weekly wages. Nevertheless, the significant majority (77%) of constituencies saw their real average wages decline.

• Much of the decline in real weekly wages occurs after 2021 – the year that new Brexit arrangements came into place, coupled with rising global inflation and then the 2022 cost-of-living crisis.

• The five UK parliamentary constituencies that have seen the most severe median weekly wage declines since 2019 include:

• Tatton (-22%)

• New Forest West (-22%)

• Maldon (-21%)

• Islington South and Finsbury (-21%)

• City of Durham (-19%)

• We also analyse the constituency data in terms of the parties their MPs represent. Taking a snapshot of 2023, for instance, we find that the Labour Party represents a disproportionate number of constituencies with the lowest weekly wages. Meanwhile the Conservative Party represents many of the highest wage constituencies – and the SNP is more evenly spread.

• However, when we look at the change in weekly wages since 2019, the worst off constituencies are overwhelmingly Conservative. As such, while the Conservative Party represents many of the highest mean wage constituencies in the UK, many of these have seen some of the greatest relative declines during their most recent term in government.

Authors

Will Stronge

Lukas Kikuchi

Luiz Garcia

With contributions from

Rob Calvert Jump