Comparing today to yesterday

Posted in General on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 09:27 by Sarah Evans.

The recently concluded Diamond Jubilee provides Britons with an excellent opportunity to reflect back on the 60 years during which Elizabeth II has been on the throne.  One interesting thing to think about is the age-old question of “Are we better off now than we were then?”

It might seem at first glance that life today presents us with some tough financial challenges.  The recent economic downturn, for example, has led to cuts in many areas of employment, which in turn has made it much more difficult for thousands of Britons to pay their mortgages on time.  Debt management continues to be a challenge for these and thousands of others who are trying to make do on less, in part because of falling rates of interest on savings.

Yet are we really worse off today?  Inflation means that we can’t answer that question merely by looking at average income figures.  The average man in 1952 earned less than £10 per week, while women averaged barely half that.  However, those sums could buy far more than they would in 2012.  The average wages earned today are nearly £500 for men and more than £300 for women each week.

Another way to compare is to look at how hard we are working.  The average working week for modern Brits is about 32 hours per week.  Sixty years ago, the average worker was putting in a full ten hours more, each and every week, which left workers with much less free time to spend with friends or devote to hobbies and entertainment.

It would seem, then, that times today may not be as tough as we imagine, though nobody would dispute that 2012 has brought challenges all its own.

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