The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that real average weekly earnings were up 2.4%, year on year, in the three months to October; wage growth has outstripped inflation for 13 consecutive months—the longest period of real wage growth since before the recession; and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts wages to grow faster than inflation over each of the next five years.
I welcome the Minister’s reply. Does he agree that the key to delivering further wage growth, particularly in rural areas such as Somerset, is improving productivity, infrastructure and the skills base, all of which underpin the Chancellor’s long-term economic plan for the south-west?
My hon. Friend is quite right. Last year, the hourly pay of the average Somerset employee grew well in excess of CPI inflation, and of course the south-west has a particularly strong employment rate. To keep on driving real wage growth, however, we must have productivity gains, hence the focus on the “Fixing the Foundations” strategy for skills and infrastructure and on making sure we have an attractive tax regime that encourages investment and brings jobs to that region and the country as a whole.
Some 400,000 fewer people earn more than £20,000 than did in 2010, because the Chancellor has been cutting full-time jobs and replacing them with more part-time, low-paid jobs. What is he doing to lift productivity and research and development to raise average and median wages?
The lowest earners experienced the fastest growth in median earnings last year, and recent growth in employment has been dominated by full-time workers, contary to what the hon. Gentleman says. We have a comprehensive plan for driving productivity in the “Fixing the Foundations” strategy, and the national living wage is a dramatic, long-term structural change.