The Real Wage, Inflation & The Falling Pound; Are Brits getting Poorer?

Unemployment rates in Britain are lower than at any time since the 1970s, and according to a survey conducted by recruitment agency Adecco, employers plan to hike wages by 1% over the next year, after a 1.5% increase in the first half of this year.

But despite this, British workers are likely to become worse off, because inflation rates are stubbornly refusing to come down, and the Bank of England have no immediate plans to increase interest rates.

This means, for example, that the costs of travelling to and from work, mealtimes, domestic bills and most other things we spend our money on are increasing faster than our salaries are growing.

What makes the situation worse still is the falling price of the pound. Many experts have predicted that soon the value of the pound, which has dropped around 17% against most major currencies since late 2015, will reach parity or even drop below the price of the euro, meaning holidays and most imported goods will cost more than ever.

The economic uncertainty brought about by Brexit is not helping; employers insist they have to be cautious as they wait to see if Britain will leave the single market and what the post-Brexit landscape will look like for businesses.

Although businesses are making more hires, the increase in the national living wage and other administrative burdens mean that employers are struggling to offer attractive wage packages – and since there is more demand for jobs than ever, there is little incentive for them to do so.

Some people would argue that a falling pound could be good news for the economy, as it will encourage people to buy British goods and services, but the counter-argument suggests that because Britain is primarily a service economy, where buyers are less price-motivated, this effect can be discounted.

A falling pound does, however, make trips and business dealings abroad more expensive, as well as imported goods and services, and puts extra pressure on domestic budgets.

To summarise, it seems indisputable that the “real wage”, that British workers earn, is falling, because although wages are increasingly slightly, the money does not stretch as far as it once did.

On a more encouraging note, foreign direct investment into the UK, which many observers suggested would fall after Brexit was invoked, has done quite the opposite, increasing exponentially.

The UK secured its highest ever level of inward investment in 2016, well ahead of Germany, France and Spain, securing 19% of total foreign investment into Europe, across 1,144 deals , according to research from Ernst and Young, with Asian investors particularly favouring the UK.

The total amount of foreign direct investment hit £197 billion in 2016, compared to £33 billion in 2015, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

So, does this mean that in order to survive in a post-Brexit Britain we should all quit our day jobs and launch startups in the hope of securing unprecedented outside investment from all over the world?

Or could it mean, as was suggested when pioneering British technology company Arm Technologies sold out to Japanese firm Softbank last year, that Britain is in danger of selling its “crown jewels” at knockdown prices to foreign investors.

It’s tempting to wonder what happens to all of that foreign investment and in whose hands it ends up – will it trickle down onto the everyday economy and help out “squeezed middle” parents and their families, or create more opportunities in communities where low wages are the norm, or help achieve George Osborne’s vision of the “Northern Powerhouse”?

The frustrating thing is that only a very few people, if any, truly know what is going to happen within the UK over the next few years, so all we can do is adopt a “wait and see” approach.

In the short term, many people will have to work out how to make their money go further, pay more attention to their spending habits and keep hold of their savings, while they ride out the storm and hope for sunnier days ahead.

But in the longer term, it is still possible that the “age of austerity” will end and the government will deliver on its promises, putting Britain in a more competitive position globally and creating a more prosperous, wealthier workforce.

At this moment in time, it truly is hard to know whether to stick or twist when it comes to jobs, spending and investment.

If you want our advice, here are 5 simple tips about how to view the economy and how to make the best of a confusing, to say the least, political, economic and business landscape.

1/ Always keep an eye out for opportunity

Remember, the economy is judged at the macro level, but as individuals there are always opportunities to improve our financial situation. Always keep abreast of them, but always research every opportunity extremely thoroughly. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

2/ Watch the job market closely

Try to look out for trends that are occurring and ask yourself if you could succeed within such environments. Be very honest with yourself, and make a list of the pros and cons of trying a new industry or pursuing a new opportunity.

3/ Don’t turn your back on opportunities or good advice

Keep your options open and tackle everything with an open mind. Don’t be put off new concepts and ideas just because they are unfamiliar to you.

4/ Try to decide when to save and when to spend

There will be times when rising interest rates dictate that its best to invest now, but equally you don’t want to overstretch yourself – save something for a rainy day.

5/ Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

It’s easy to be cynical, but there are people, and organisations out there dedicated to providing you with the best deals and the right information, to make your life easy and save you time.

Take The Money Cloud, for instance – you will find all the best rates for sending money abroad on our site, whether it’s for a property purchase, holiday, a job abroad or sending money to family and friends. Try us and see.