By Gabriella Mansell
According to a report published by the Welsh Government last week, adults in Wales in full-time work earn, on average, £46.30 less a week than those the rest of the UK.
As of April 2016, Welsh adults earned a gross average weekly income of £492.40 compared to the UK average of £538.70, marking an 8.6 per cent gap. On this measure, Wales now ranks the second lowest among the 12 areas in the report including UK nations and English regions.
Despite this, weekly earnings for adults in full-time work in Wales have increased. However, this is only a minimal increase of 2.9 per cent between 2015 and 2016 with the 2015 total at £473.40 a week. In addition to this , the gender pay gap on a hourly full-time basis increased slightly – by 0.1 per cent between 2015 and 2016 in Wales and decreased by 0.2 per cent in the UK.
Commenting on the report, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Economy Russell George AM said: “The Labour-led Welsh Government have levers at their disposal to get the Welsh economy moving. Not only do they need to do more to support Wales’ many small and medium sized enterprises, they need to attract more high-skilled and high-paid roles to the country.”
He then added: “This can be achieved through reforming business rates and taking greater efforts to attract foreign investors with long-term commitments to Wales.
“The steady rise in weekly earnings is to be welcomed and is a clear indicator that the UK Government’s efforts to introduce a National Living Wage, and in lifting millions of people out of income tax, are having a clear benefit on the Welsh economy. The Welsh Government must take a much more constructive approach to working with the UK Government to ensure that Wales can develop an economy that is competitive and works for everyone.”
Despite the obvious income inequalities between Wales and the rest of the UK, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies was insistent that the Welsh economy has and will benefit from conservative leadership. In response to the new GDP figures showing that Britain’s economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2016, Mr. RT Davies said:
“Today’s figures show that our economy is resilient and is growing showing that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. It is clear from the data that the economy has benefited from the stewardship of a Conservative government.
“Welsh Conservatives are working closely with the UK Government as it moves into a period of negotiations with the EU to ensure that Welsh households and businesses get the very best deal.
“Naturally the economy will need to adjust to a new relationship with the EU, but we are well-placed to deal with the challenges and take advantage of opportunities ahead. In the meantime, the Welsh Government must use all the devolved levers available to it to support the economy and cultivate greater business and consumer confidence. It’s high time that naysayers embraced the vote to leave the EU instead of making relentless attempts to re-run the referendum and undo the will of the people.”
The revelations came after Mr Davies also praised the expansion of Heathrow Airport in a quote that highlighted the growth of the Welsh economy:
“Now more than ever Wales and Britain need to be globally facing, and the expansion of Heathrow Airport would be a major boost for trade and tourism. As such, we welcome the committee’s approval for a third runway, which will serve to help the economy grow while creating thousands of jobs and apprenticeships across the country, and secure a lasting legacy for the entrepreneurs and innovators of Wales’ future.
“Today’s decision sends a clear message that Wales and Britain are open for business and that we welcome closer ties with countries around the world.”
Contrary to claims of relative growth and success under Conservative leadership, the gap in the Welsh weekly wage could have negative consequences for the 66,000 students who will be graduating from Cardiff’s various universities over the next 3 years.
When asked about what could be done by the Welsh Government in an attempt to encourage prospective graduates into remaining within Cardiff, one 3rd Year student, Harry Busz said:
“I don’t think there is anything that the government can do anymore to draw skilled workers away from London in the numbers necessary to employ a large amount of graduates in places such as Cardiff, even though many people, including myself might want to stay in the city. It’s part of a larger problem of centralization of business in London which is to the detriment of the rest of the U.K.”
In relation to whether the difference in pay would potentially discourage graduates wanting to find employment within Cardiff Mr Busz then added:
“It would discourage people but not because they don’t like Cardiff just that there might not be enough employment opportunities. However, if the right job is available here I potentially would apply despite the wage and wouldn’t mind that much as everything’s cheaper here.”