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A History of Payday in the UK

- by Elizabeth Redfern
Best Paid Jobs – The Ultimate Guide – Chapter 29

This article takes a look at how the transforming economy affected job security and wages, to get to the state of today. Explore the History of Payday!

History of payday - Cashfloat

Low Pay and Job Security

The transformation of the economy in the United Kingdom has led to some serious changes in the jobs market. During the decades from the 1960s to the 1980s there were many low paid jobs in the UK but the attraction for those who filled these positions were the job security and the promise of a pension (even if it was only from the state) at the end of a working life.

Employees often stayed in the same job for all of their working life and in the manufacturing industries it was not unknown for whole extended families to be working at the same company. Businesses such as those involved in car production or car parts employed practically all families and a lot of young people started their apprenticeships at these same companies.

The low pay that was offered was not seen as a problem as apprentices knew that after they came to the end of the programme they would be qualified and would get a good increase in wages. Additionally, the lack of available mobility and the prospect of a job for life were often factors that were enough to tempt employees to stay put in one job until they retired.

A Breakdown in Manufacturing Industries

With the wholescale loss of manufacturing in the UK in industries like steel, mining, textile mills and the ancillary businesses that supplied parts to these same industries, the loss of jobs often meant that practically a whole town could end up unemployed with no payday UK whatsoever as competition from the Far East closed down businesses.

Add to that the changeover to service industries and the hi tech companies that began to flourish over the start of the 21st century and it is not hard to see why there was a huge change in the economy of the UK.

At The End of the Last Century

Although there were some seismic changes to the economy towards the end of the 1990s with more unemployed and the loss of large businesses that had stood for many years, there were new industries where young people could earn good wages, and sometimes the potential to be promoted to receiving among the best paydays in the UK. However, with an increase in job mobility and a change in attitude of employers, the prospect of a job for life was no longer a reality.

The majority of new jobs were in the financial or retail sectors or in Information Technology which was a specialised area that needed years of study and training. The boom in spending during this period of time created a large domestic debt problem that is still seen today. Despite warnings from economists, the reliance on constantly rising house prices and an attitude of instant gratification led to a situation where almost no one had any savings. When you add in the loss of job security this could only produce a worsening situation for the low paid employees at that time.

After The Financial Crash


Unemployment is now falling and the UK economy is undergoing further changes. However, many of the new jobs are the result of a shift to self-employment and this is one area where low wages are endemic. As people who were made redundant after the crash of 2008 struggle to find jobs even in cleaning, a lot of individuals are setting up businesses on their own but are still not earning enough to make ends meet.

The self-employed in the UK can earn as little as £9,000 per year and there are no sick benefits, holiday pay and little chance of saving for a pension.

Some of the new self-employed have retrained into totally different occupations and predictions from think tanks are that workers may now have as many as five different types of occupation during their working lives.

Reduced Labour Costs

With employers now looking at all the many ways to reduce labour costs, the reality is that those who have entered into self-employment as a stop gap measure may find that they will never again be employed working for a boss. So, although the talk about economic recovery in the UK may appear to be legitimate, the fact is that many British people are struggling with low wages and are having to come to terms with the fact that this is not going to change in the near future.

Part Time and Job Splitting

These two factors are also responsible the changes to the UK economy and have resulted in even more low wage earners. Jobs that were once worked by one person on a forty-hour week are now sometimes reduced to four 10 hour jobs which are contracted on zero hours giving no job security to those unfortunates who are doing them

Young graduates are often at the sharp end of the economic changes with many employed on a part time basis and earning around £120 per week which means there is very little chance of them moving out of the family home and becoming independent.

What Does the Future Hold?

With well-known companies like Next employing 30% of their workforce on contracts that are for 12 hours or even less, the future does not look good for the young people who make up the majority of the unemployed. There are too many applicants for each advertised job so there is little chance of the large companies changing their profits driven tactics when it comes to employees.

What is occurring in the UK is a wide disparity between incomes for the top business bosses and their wider workforce. This disparity and the change to jobs which have become casual labour means that the taxpayer will still have to subsidise low paid workers and economic inequality has become an everyday occurrence in the modern world of work.

The days of job security even for those on low wages has long gone and will probably never return as the UK continues to take part in globalisation and a world that is dominated by high profits for the few.

Elizabeth Redfern
Elizabeth Redfern is a born and bred Londoner who loves the city life. She is a proud chocoholic who enjoys reading, jogging and eating – especially chocolate! Elizabeth attained a first class degree in Mathematics but chose to make a career out of her real passion, writing. She has published many poems and short stories, but decided to join the Cashfloat educational channel writing team because she is passionate about helping people take care of their finances leaving them free to enjoy the finer points of life – most notably (in her opinion), chocolate!
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