Showing posts with label living standards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label living standards. Show all posts

Friday, July 05, 2013

Separate Scotlands

A new study examining the minimum amount of money people need to have an acceptable living standard in rural Scotland found this is up to 40% higher than in urban Britain.
The cost of living in a countryside town is consistently more expensive in remote Scotland than in England, in some places by as much as 25%.
The study was commissioned by several councils, housing bodies, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Research was carried out in three remote rural areas: the Highlands, the islands and southern Scotland. The study looked at living costs in towns such as Lerwick, Wick, Campbeltown and Stornoway, as well as in small settlements.
People living in remote areas have to pay more for many goods including food, household items, petrol and clothing. They also endure "significant additional costs" because they often have to travel further to get to work, the report said. Household energy bills in remote rural Scotland are "much more" more than elsewhere in the UK to allow people achieve the same levels of comfort.
People in remote rural areas of Scotland require "significantly higher incomes to attain the same minimum living standard as those living elsewhere in the UK", adding: "This is partly due to the costs of additional travel but mainly caused by the higher cost of buying the same things as elsewhere, and the extra cost of keeping warm."
Welfare benefits "do not cover the cost of living in remote rural Scotland", the report said.
State benefits only provide up to 90% of the amount of money a pensioner needs, as little as a third of what working-age people need and only about half of what a family with children needs.
The minimum wage "only produces about two-thirds of a minimum income for a single person living in remote rural Scotland", the report said.
"For an adequate income, a single person needs to earn about 90% of the median, whereas in urban parts of the country someone on two-thirds average earnings has enough."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

feather-bedded and gold-plated

Ian Bell, the Herald's columnist has written a useful article about the attcks on state workers pensions. He points out that public sector pensions account for 1.5% of GDP. By 2027-28, the percentage is projected to rise all the way to an “unsustainable” 2%. It also takes no account of the effect of shedding half a million jobs thanks to George Osborne’s 2010 spending review.

"A reformer was invariably someone who wanted to make a bad situation better. Not any more. In the mouths of politicians these days, reform is a word meant to give credibility to changes that are liable to be unpleasant, unpopular, or both...When you are told you will have to work longer, pay more and receive less in old age for your pains, it’s little comfort to hear that your lot has been “reformed”..."

Negotiations are at an end even as the talking continues is the position, it seems, of Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, who will defend his “fair and reasonable” proposals, of the pre-determined outcome. No pensions until the age of 66; employee contributions increased by at least 3%; and a less generous settlement come retirement.

The unions could kick up a fuss, of course. But they should heed Vince Cable, business secretary: if they persist, he might feel the need to "reform" industrial relations law concerning strikes.

Summarised, the message might be this: don’t bother to negotiate, don’t bother to protest. As Mr Alexander is happy to explain, if opposition to "reform" continues, his next offer is liable to be worse.

Why should anyone [except MPs ,of course] be feather-bedded with a gold-plated pension in these hard times, when private sector workers enjoy no such luxuries? It amounts to this: private sector workers have been screwed, so it’s only fair that you, too, should be screwed.

The TUC says most public sector workers receive pensions of between £5000 and £8000 annually. The PCS union claims the average retired civil servant gets £4200.

Lord Hutton’s review of arrangements proceeded on the basis that half of pensioners receive less than £5600 a year and 10% less than £1000. His averages (for 2009-10) were as follows: local government, £4052; NHS, £7234; civil service, £6199; teaching, £9806; armed forces, £7722. Only 10% of retirees had pensions of £17,000 or above. These tended to be retired policemen and fire officers, but in those professions employee contributions – 8.5% to 11%, depending on the scheme – were far higher than most. 1% of workers in receipt of £37,000 a year. Two-thirds of them were doctors and consultants, and most of those could have bought far larger pots had they pursued private medicine.

If anything has been learned from the Coalition Government it is this: the more they get, the more they demand. They cite the national interest. But by what bizarre logic did the cost of Britain’s public sector come to be the reason and cause for underwriting criminal behaviour in international banking? Mr Alexander’s reforms are intended to raise billions, not improve the life of a single underpaid council worker contemplating retirement.

Monday, January 28, 2008

1957 and 2006 - Are we better off ?

What difference does 50 years make for the working class . Are we all better off . Well , it certainly appears that way . UK household income has doubled in real terms over the last fifty years. And the pattern of family spending has also changed dramatically. Basic necessities including food accounting for a smaller proportion of our family budget, while spending is up on leisure activities, travel and motoring. Income going to housing makes up a greater share.

In 1957, spending on food, fuel and rent , the basic three items , made up nearly half of all household expenditure. Taken together with clothing and travel, basics made up nearly two-thirds of family spending. The main luxuries for the ordinary family were tobacco and alcohol, which combined made up just under 10% of spending. The biggest other luxury item was meals eaten out making up 3% of spending. Four of the top ten spending items were food or drink, with spending on meat, fruit, vegetables and beer all in the top twenty.
Overall, the average family spent a total of £14.30 per week in 1957, out of a gross income of £16. In today's money, spending was £243 per week.

In 2006 the average household spent £456 out of a gross income of £642 before taxes.

In five decades, spending on most basics has declined sharply, with food making up only half as much of the average household budget as it did in 1957. And half of that food budget now consists of meals and takeaways - a new category introduced in the l970s.

But the cost of housing, including mortgage interest payments or rent, has more than doubled since 1957. Mortgage interest payments or rent accounted for 19% of spending in 2006, up from 9% in 1957Using a slightly broader measure of housing costs, which includes council tax, insurance and home improvements, UK households spent an average of £143 a week on housing-related costs in 2006 - or 22%.

Motoring and travel costs have doubled from 8% of spending in 1957 to 16% in 2006, mostly because of rising car ownership .

There are big social divisions in the ownership of some popular consumer goods, and the greater affluence is at least partly a result of more families having two incomes - both parents going out to work .

And But there are big differences in consumption between rich and poor.
Nearly every household in the richest tenth of the population had a computer and an internet connection. In contrast, among the poorest tenth, only 31% have computers and 21% have an internet connection. And 56% of that group have mobile phones, compared to 92% of the richest tenth. The pattern of car ownership also varies sharply by income, with less than a third of the poorest tenth of households owning a car, compared to 94% of the richest tenth of families.

Nor are we happier it is claimed .

According to economist Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, once people can afford the basics, happiness does not increase with income when comparing happiness among rich and poor countries. And looking at surveys of happiness over time, he says levels of happiness have not changed across either the UK - or US - in the last 30 years, despite the doubling of living standards in both. Moreover, the availability of new goods can just make people more jealous of what they are unable to afford, especially for the less well-off.

Other studies show that what we have lost in the last 50 years is time. Strikingly, most families now talk more in the car than at home.

Paradoxically , while we spend more on leisure goods than half a century ago, we have less time to enjoy our free time - increasing numbers of households need two earners as earlier said and working hours have increased even if there has been an official reduction , since doing overtime has climbed .