Really? When did this happen?

What counts as employment has fundamentally changed. Gone are the days of wages that would enable a single earner to support a family.

Real wages aren’t any lower than they used to be. So how could this be?

Putrescent guff more likely, no?

47 comments on “Really? When did this happen?

  1. In fairness Philip Green seems able to support Tina Green on one wage.

    The problem is expectations. We are much wealthier than our grandparents but the expectations of what children should get means we feel less able to afford many.

    The solution, as always, is to encourage women to remain at home.

  2. “We need a new, revolutionary brand of parliamentarian if fear and Ukip are to be stopped”

    The Guardian plans to stop ‘fear’?

  3. “The absolute shower that we’ve ended up with in government couldn’t find their own backsides with both hands and an atlas…”

    And yet, they are in power, and have a strong lead. How can this be?

  4. Given the level of support most households receive from the taxpayer it is hardly a ‘single income’ issue. And let’s face it, for many of us – if you want to buy your own home and enjoy a decent standard of living – it takes two incomes to pay your way. A single earner family was something from my parents’ generation.

  5. People whose “careers” are a treadmill of stints at call centres and warehouses watched the people who crashed the economy into the side of a cliff in 2007 get rewarded with golden parachutes. The impression is that the government is in it to protect this oligarchical class of parasites while feeding the rest of us flannel.

    The whole article is a steaming pile of envy and resentment. The workers in “call centres and warehouses” aren’t responsible for the poor choices they’ve made in life. Despite living in an opportunity-rich society, such people are the hapless victims of the capitalist system ( to which no clear or workable alternative is ever offered). Though often cosseted by welfarism, they are never parasites. The only parasites are the capitalist oligarchs who…cont’d p.94.

  6. What is the provenance of Tim’s claim that “real wages aren’t any lower than they used to be”? They certainly are for some people.

  7. I have no data to support this assertion so happily will be corrected but the truth in the article may come more down to age of childbirth:

    1. couples are now waiting till their mid-30s to have children rather than their mid-early 20s as in previous times.
    2. The average income for a person in their 30s is greater than that of the average income for a person in their 20s.
    3. Many parents now have more money to spend on their toddlers than previous generations.
    4. The cost of childcare-related goods (including e.g. the private schools that Guardianistas send their children to) has therefore increased
    5. Families now cannot cut back to a single-income household because high dual-incomes have inflated the prices of all goods relevant to a couple with young children

  8. Try buying an average house with an average wage. There’s your problem.

    The ‘norm’ for living (independently, as in, not with the direct support of the state) is now inflated to the level afforded by dual-income families. Possibly with an inheritance thrown in to bump the average up a bit more.

    SMFS’s solution lowers the average again. But it’s not going to happen.

    I don’t know how old the average is here, but I tend to find that those old enough to have bought a home before New Labour started the madness usually don’t get just how expensive it has become.

    For balance, ‘my’ generation vastly underappreciates many of the aspects of our improved living standards that, if sacrificed for a less flashy-lighty-fancy-holiday-y existence, would bridge *some* of that affordability gap.

    But yeah, my dad comfortably supported a family of five in a nice house with a nice 80’s style middle-class life on the salary of a minining engineer. A good friend of mine today can’t do the same and he’s taking home six figures.

  9. @”Tim Worstall
    What’s the price of a property? That price? Or the mortgage influenced by interest rates?”
    True but interest rates are not so much lower
    (I used money saving expert to work out the repayment based on what I paid in 2000 as a first time buyer and the best rates today -1.45) and the monthly repayment has gone from £460 to £1,143 – of course that does not include the extra time needed to save for a deposit). Real wages have not almost tripled in that time.

  10. Yeah, it’s property prices. And it’s due to the competition caused by women entering the workforce. A two-income family can almost always outbid a single-income family in a house sale, so prices have of course gone up to what two people can afford. When single-income families were the norm, house prices were based on what one person could afford. This is not surprising or complicated.

    Since The Guardian think this is a terrible problem, I wonder whether they would support undoing its cause?

  11. As the commenter above points out, dual-income families have pushed up prices for child-related things: housing, most obviously; but also childcare (a full-time nursery place for one child costs as much as a mortgage). Your basket of goods shows e.g. flights to Malaga are cheaper; but the cost of a £30 flight once a year is nothing compared to the £3,000 a month spent on a mortgage + childcare.

    I can understand the argument that women are delaying childbirth because of opportunity cost; but the age of first-time home buyers keeps rising too, and the two are connected: it’s not much fun starting a family when you don’t have security of tenure.

  12. “The absolute shower that we’ve ended up with in government couldn’t find their own backsides with both hands and an atlas…”

    Journalist doesn’t know the difference between an Atlas and Gray’s Anatomy…FFS.

  13. @Squander Two,
    Women working has not made anything else more expensive, surely housing being made more expensive is a sign of market failure? (Of course it is not a free market).

  14. @anon: Not market failure but government failure from restricting supply, meddling with interest rates and continually pumping demand

  15. @Mal Reynolds (Serenity)
    I agree with you 100%. I would also add goverments taking money from people to give others better housing than they can afford.
    I earn a good wage but I still can’t afford housing which an immigrant who I know got for free when she was straight off the plane.

  16. @john77
    I agree 100%, women in Spain work and prices are much lower than they were in the past. (Although this has not been brilliant for the banks that have lots of bad debts, but that was their fault).

  17. “But yeah, my dad comfortably supported a family of five in a nice house with a nice 80’s style middle-class life on the salary of a minining engineer. A good friend of mine today can’t do the same and he’s taking home six figures.”

    Did your father work in the same part of the country as your friend does?

  18. “And it’s due to the competition caused by women entering the workforce.”

    Also the parents who benefitted from the first great waves of house price inflation giving their kids a large deposit to “help them on the housing ladder”.

  19. “Did your father work in the same part of the country as your friend does?”

    No. You might say they are either end of the same ‘region’. My Dad could have set up his life where the friend now lives (back then) and done fine. The friend could live better on his wage if he lived where I grew up, but his job options/commute would be issues.

    So they’re far enough a part that it’s a factor.. but it’s not like I grew up in Sunderland and my mate lives in Marlow.

  20. > Also the parents who benefitted from the first great waves of house price inflation giving their kids a large deposit to “help them on the housing ladder”.

    Yes, that too.

    > Women working has not made anything else more expensive

    Bollocks. Of course it has. And it’s presumably made some things cheaper too. Huge, revolutionary changes to society affect prices.

  21. ‘Gone are the days of wages that would enable a single earner to support a family.’

    Gone are the days when people ate at home and no one had a smart phone.

    If all you have is the wages of a single earner, then that’s what you support your family with.

  22. “5. Families now cannot cut back to a single-income household because high dual-incomes have inflated the prices of all goods relevant to a couple with young children”

    The tragedy is that whereas women used to have to fight to have the ‘right’ to work, now they have to fight to have the right to stay at home and look after their kids. And not just financially either: societal expectations have changed to the point that after my nephew was born, my sister-in-law was asked *when* she was going back to work, not *if*.

  23. The Thought Gang,

    I’m a mere mining engineer rather than a minining engineer, but I’ve been able to bring up a family of four in a nice house on my income alone. MrsBud is a mental house social worker, but she only studied once our youngest was in her teens. She works three days a week as she doesn’t want to work full time and freely admits that she has the luxury to pick and choose as her income is not the prime motivation for her choice to work.

    We had agreed when we married that she would be a stay at home mum.

  24. @ anon
    Take-away meals (especially trendy sandwiches), trouser suits, women’s shoes, cosmetics, cars (except sports cars), office and factory buildings that now have to have more toilets and more heating, railway tickets that now have to cover most of the cost of upgrading the rolling stock (and, to some extent, the railway network as there is far more commuting since husbands and wives/partners may work in different towns), childcare – since demand has soared and the number of those willing to provide it cheaply has not, private education, women’s hairdressing.
    That’s ten.

  25. Funny that many households of zero earners manage to support large a large family then, isn’t it?

    Oh, I manage it too and I’m not a particularly high earner. Nowhere near 6 figures, rent is about 600 quid/month, have no benefits, imported stuff I like is way more expensive than UK and have to provide health insurance for wife and child. Soon will have to pay for schooling too. Manage a couple of nice holidays too. It’s called budgeting and not being a retard.

  26. @john77
    I would agree with you about trains – although I am not 100% sure that is not due to poor management, government policy etc.
    As a man I have no idea about cosmetics, trouser suits and women’s shoes.
    Private education I will concede (although of course services do normally rise more than inflation).
    For take away meals has the cost minus vat really gone up by more than inflation? People seem to eat out more than they used to. As a former McD’s employee I know that they get paid less relative to housing than they used to.
    (FWIW I don’t have a strong opinion about this either way, I had never heard this before).

  27. I moved to London in the ’70s when the city was a shite hole and its population declining. The other half and I purchased a two-bed flat for £25k, then in the ’80s traded up to a £60k three-floor Georgian property in a nice area. London has since been transformed into one of the most expensive cities in the world, and my niece and nephew (both single) who work in the city have no chance of buying anything remotely similar to the old homestead. Wish there was a cunning plan we could adopt and the situation was otherwise. Of course my niece and nephew could have the same opportunities we did, merely by relocating to a distant Eastern European city, with a view to transforming it in the image of London. After 35 years or so hard graft they could well be where my generation are now.

  28. Surely dual incomes would only have inflated prices in areas of the economy where supply couldn’t rise to match it? Housing is the obvious example. It hasn’t driven up the price of food or clothes though for obvious reasons.

  29. Bernie G.,

    > my niece and nephew could have the same opportunities we did, merely by relocating to a distant Eastern European city, with a view to transforming it in the image of London

    I’m not convinced. If moving to Bucharest is such a great plan, why are so many of Eastern Europe’s best and brightest flocking to the UK? My Bulgarian colleague shows off nice photos of the flat he recently bought in Sofia (£60k, great part of town or so he says); but he acknowledges that he couldn’t afford it on a Bulgarian wage.

    A better plan would be to move to Germany. You’d get a western European lifestyle at eastern European prices. And Squander Two would be happy with their positive attitude towards women who don’t work.

  30. @Andrew M
    I guess my point is that it is unrealistic for the Millennials to expect to inherit the El Dorado that is modern day London, whether on a single or a dual income; and that if they want to achieve a similar outcome to the so-called Boomers generation they will have to build it for themselves, either in a less salubrious part of the UK or some other less developed distant land. I’m not sure I would choose such a regimented society as Germany – have served my time there and there’s only so much Sauerkraut, sausages and boiled potatoes a man can eat.

  31. Sq2,
    I’m just going by what the Telegraph tells me:

    “There’s also a culture of mothers not working,” another mother added, “and those who do might get called a Rabenmutter.” That’s a raven mother – one who doesn’t care about her children. Not only are German mothers expected not to work, they’re paid not to.

    Whatever reasons they have for not having children, economics doesn’t seem to come into it.

    Bernie,
    Fair points; there are no magic answers. And the millennials should be grateful that they live in a country where jobs are plentiful.

    Doesn’t have to be Germany: most of northwestern mainland Europe has more affordable housing and/or more affordable childcare than the UK. If only I could persuade the other half to make the move too. What were we saying the other day, about wives having to be kept within driving distance of Harrods?

  32. @ anon
    Four penn’orth of chips – I forget how much the fish cost – would be 30-odd new pence. If the fish was 9d, a takeaway meal cost just over £1 – fancy sandwiches cost £5.50.

  33. “Yeah, it’s property prices. And it’s due to the competition caused by women entering the workforce.”

    No, it’s due to governments holding interest rates at artificially low levels for twenty years.

    How many people would be buying $500,000 houses if interest rates were 10%?

  34. Andrew,

    > Whatever reasons they have for not having children, economics doesn’t seem to come into it.

    My comment that you were replying to was about attitude, not economics.

  35. Edward,

    > No, it’s due to governments holding interest rates at artificially low levels for twenty years.

    Why can’t it be both? Prices are of course influenced by billions of factors.

    > How many people would be buying $500,000 houses if interest rates were 10%?

    Sure. But, whatever interest rates are and whatever effect they’re having on house prices, two people will still usually be able to outbid one person.

    Another major influence on house unaffordability in Britain is rich people living in poky little bedsits. A lot of properties that really ought to be affordable starter homes because they’re little more than boxes are insanely expensive because they’re in the right part of the right town. Meanwhile, the bottom’s dropped out of the castle market. Force the rich to live in mansions, that’s what I say.

  36. Sq2,

    Not sure what you’re picking at. That quote from the Telegraph article mentions both culture and economics. In Germany, stay-at-home mothers are welcomed both by society and by the taxman.

    A reminder of your original complaint:
    > The prevailing attitude towards women who don’t work absolutely stinks

    In Germany, according to the article, the prevailing attitude towards women who don’t work smells of roses.

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