Travel agencies lead the way in salary increases despite a contraction in the cost of living

  • By Niku Calsea and Kevin Peachey
  • BBC News

Travel agents recorded the biggest pay rise last year, up 21% in a year, official figures show, with public relations directors and toll collectors next on the list.

Sports trainers saw the biggest drop and across the UK workers saw earnings fail to keep up with rising prices.

The average salary for a full-time worker was nearly £35,000 in April 2023, an increase of 5.8% on the previous year.

But the cost of living rose faster than wages over the same period.

This erodes the purchasing power of workers.

Recovering from Covid

Jobs such as travel agents and publicans performed better than average, but this was likely to be part of the recovery after these roles were hit hard during Covid.

Their typical annual earnings are also still below the national average for all occupations.

Sean Tipton, from the travel agents trade body ABTA, said: “During the pandemic the travel industry has been hit hardest. The business failed. Over 100,000 people left the tourism sector.”

When demand from vacationers returned, there was a shortage of workers in the industry, so companies offered higher wages, he said. More bookings meant they had the means to increase pay.

BBC News has analyzed the latest earnings data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to see which occupations have managed to beat rising inflation rates and which have not.

Travel agents had the biggest pay rise, with the average salary rising by more than a fifth to around £29,600, but still below the national average of £35,000.

Public relations directors, publicans and directors also saw pay increases of more than 15%.

On the other hand, some jobs fared worse. Deliveries, interior designers and tax agents have seen significant pay cuts, even before accounting for inflation.

Although these figures are not up to date from the most recent pay figures published by the ONS, they provide a more detailed picture of the labor market.

The average full-time worker in the UK earned £34,963 in the year to March 2023, up around £1,900 or 5.8% on the previous year. The increase in hourly wages was the largest since comparable records began in 1997 – but is unlikely to be higher than in some earlier periods, such as the 1970s.

But the inflation figure, or the rate at which the price of goods and services rose, for the year to April was even higher at 7.8%.

This means wages fell by 1.9% in real terms for full-time workers, a sign of the continued contraction in the cost of living.

These numbers will not reflect the slowdown in inflation and further wage increases from April, which are not yet detailed. According to more recent figures from the ONS, pay has already outpaced inflation in the June to August 2023 period.

The gender pay gap, which shows the hourly earnings of men and women, was almost unchanged across all major sectors between 2022 and 2023, although it improved over time.

Over the past decade, the gender pay gap has narrowed by around a quarter, reaching 7.7% for full-time workers by April 2023. However, it remains disproportionately high for workers aged 40 or over – 10 .3%.

Wednesday’s figures also revealed that the share of people on low wages, meaning people earning less than two-thirds of the average hourly earnings, was the lowest since records began in 1997.

Tips for getting a raise

  • Time it right – Planning a conversation in advance will give you and your boss time to prepare and means you’re more likely to have a productive conversation
  • Bring evidence – have a list of what you have achieved at work and how you have developed
  • Be confident – Know your worth and don’t be shy to speak up
  • Mind a number – look at job postings online to see salaries for comparable jobs
  • Don’t give up – keep talking to your employer if this route doesn’t work and if you can’t get what you want, be prepared to look elsewhere

Additional reporting by Liana Bravo, Libby Rogers, Callum Thomson and Rob England.

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