How the "Average Wage" Hides the True Nature of this System and How it Causes Crime - What the ***K is Going On? (20/06/08)


To create a small pamphlet, double sided A3 for easy print/folding that summarises initial research. Download Pamphlet | How to make pamphlet

CONCEPT: To measure the different average wages, to research how it has changed over time, to research what changes the average wage.

I'd like to do a survey about wages. The 'average wage' is £11.34 per hour. Is this you? less / more

Many people believe this 'Average wage' is what most people earn Is this you? yes / no

But this 'average' (the median) is the middle value of all wages, not the most common. Another 'average' the 'mode' wage is the most common value, likely to be ...the minimum wage. £5.52 per hour.

When we add up all the wages and divide them equally we learn more about the nature of this system. This average, the 'mean' shows how wealth is generated from our labour and flows to the minority who own everything. Over 60% of the population earn less than the mean so skewed is it by higher wages earned by the elites. £13.96 per hour, £30,000 per year.

It matters to our sense of ourselves whether we imagine that most people's incomes are 'in the middle' or whether we see incomes as polarised between rich and poor. The top 10% take 40% of the income. The top 1% average £222,000 per year. The top 0.1% average £780,000 per year. The bottom 20% earn less than £10,000.

Since 1970 the UK has become increasingly polarised with levels of inequality rising and rising. As this inequality rises so do the levels of crime and violence.Policies combating social exclusion or to reduce poverty cannot stop this because it is relative deprivation that counts the most. And this relative deprivation is systematic.It is the current economic and social order called neoliberalism.

LSE Professor of Criminology Robert Reiner says: THIS SYSTEM CAUSES CRIME

Yet lets be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down (english ballad - 1643) 'If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn't we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight? (Eduardo Galeano)

Is it a coincidence that britain became more equal in the 1970s when there was more class struggle? yes / no

Where do we go from here? Work - Housing - Ecology - Everything: Solidarity : Unions : Transition Towns : : : - What the ***K Can Go On?

Download Pamphlet | How to make pamphlet

Resources for understanding the 'Average' wage:

The area of average wages is fairly complicated and includes a huge amount of variation, even within each average. For example whether part time workers are included in the average can have a considerable impact on the average. The same for women. If we included both cases then it tends to lower the average wage. This average wage is not often used, it could be argued that this is because it is hiding an inequality. That is part time workers and women are more exploited than full time male workers.

The other variation which forms the starting point of the pamphlet is the issue of which average you use and why. Occasionally the media will report around £30,000 as being the average wage - this is the 'mean average', that is all the income added together and divided by the number of people. So this is obviously skewed vastly upwards to pay the boss. In combination with apparent 'british reserve' about discussing personal pay, this 'mean' creates an internally policed competition by attributing the fundamental realities of shit pay back onto the individual ("everyone else earns more than me - i must be doing something wrong/must do more") rather than the systematic.

The systematic can start to be revealed by using a different average - the median. The median is the midway point of all wages lined up from lowest to highest. In 2007 it was £23,764. This figure is more representative, and is often quoted. but it will tend to only measure the wage of a full time male. Handy that.When including part time employees you get £19494.8.

It still suffers from the confusion that it is the most common value.It is hard to find out what this figure is - but research seems to indicate a cluster around the minimum wage - £5.52 per hour.

So that was the first phase of this project. Worth reading are Musings about figures , my first stab at collecting statistics, and some conversations i had with a local economist about income inequality, where i discovered another way of measuring called 'HBAI - Households Below Average Income', which is a way of measuring standard of living, and includes everyone in the country rather than just those on a wage.


Pen's Parade is an interesting bit of work from a Dutch economist, Jan Pen, who found a way of representing income inequalities visually.It has since been updated using UK figures from 1995. Each persons height is stretched according to their income (i.e average height = average income), and then they are lined up in order of height, the shortest (poorest) on the left, and the highest (richest) on the right. Then the parade passes in one hour. We are in a world where those on income support and other benefits are between 1 and 2ft tall, at half an hour, those passing by were 4 feet tall. 62% of the population walks past until someone of average height passes. Towards the end of the hour things get very strange indeed. With 3 minutes to go 11ft people walk past. With 1 minute to go, people are 60 feet high, and the last few seconds a parade of colossal giants emerge, as high as tower blocks , the last members of the parade with their heads in the clouds 4 miles high.

See this document for more info

So PHASE 2 of this project is to update Pen's Parade using UK figures over the past decade. An interesting project might be to take figures from each year since the 60's, make a parade for each one and see how its changed.


The next phase of this project is mapping the causes of these changes from the point of view of class struggle, rather than portraying people as hapless victims of a predetermined outcome. Wages and incomes have changed and the UK is more unequal now because capital has reacted to the struggles of the 70s. The precarity of the present is founded on real actual struggles by real actual people, and hence there is no race to the bottom (necessarily), rather there are cycles of struggle (and remember - the value of your struggle can go up and well as down)

So to map this i am going to be using a book called Forces of Labor by Beverly Silver:

"The book analyzes the development of workers' struggles on a world-wide scale in the past 140 years, its relation to the expansion and re-location of industries, the political intervention of states and war, and develops concepts for a better understanding of struggles, e.g. the material basis of workers' power in certain industries and the political impact on capitalist strategies. So if you haven't read the book yet, get a copy and join the discussion! [Beverly J. Silver, Forces of Labor. Worker's movements and Globalization since 1870, Cambridge University Press, 2002]"

The mapping could take the form of an actual world map, with each decade represented on a seperate timeline, showing movements of capital and class struggles. Or it could be represented as an animation where users can scroll along a historical timeline.

Resources and documents, statistics etc