New analysis published on 8 January 2016 by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that household debt rose sharply over 2016, with unsecured debt (debt other than mortgages) reaching new highs.
The TUC says weak wage growth has left more families reliant on borrowing to support their living standards.
The analysis finds that:
- Unsecured debt per household rose to £12,887 in the third quarter of 2016, which is up £1,117 on a year earlier – the highest annual increase since at least 1997.
- Total unsecured debt rose to £349 billion in the third quarter of 2016 – a record high, and well above the £290 billion peak in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis
- Unsecured debt as a share of household income is now 27.4 per cent – the highest it’s been for eight years.
The findings echo recent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) figures showing that households are saving less than ever, and Bank of England data showing consumer credit growing at its fastest rate for 11 years.
The TUC says that the growth of consumer credit should worry the government as a sign that fundamental problems with the economy, such as weak pay growth and low public investment, have not been fixed.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These increases in household debt are a warning that families are struggling to get by on their pay alone. Unless the government does more for working people, they could end the New Year poorer than they start it.
“Employment may have risen, but wages are still worth less today than nine years ago. The government is relying on debt-fuelled consumer spending to support the economy, with investment and trade in the doldrums since the financial crisis.
“There’s a lot the government could do to help. Public sector workers who have suffered severe cuts to their real pay since 2010 are long overdue a decent pay rise. The minimum wage needs to keep rising so the lowest paid workers can keep up with rising prices. And a major programme of public investment in rail, roads, new homes and clean energy could be targeted at communities where decent jobs are in short supply.”
* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/