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Average UK Salary By Age In 2023

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Ever wondered what the average salary is for workers of your age? Do employees in Scotland earn more than those in the Midlands? What about the South-West compared to Wales? 

Does getting a university degree boost your earnings, and which jobs pay the highest salaries? 

We’ve used government data from the Office for National Statistics alongside information from other sources to answer these questions and more. 

Read on to get a picture of what people earn at different ages and in different parts of the country and in different industry sectors so you can see how your pay measures up.

Earnings on the up

The latest government data, published in November 2023, reveals that the median average UK weekly wage for full time workers (in England and Wales) is £682 gross (that’s the equivalent to an annual pre-tax salary of just over £38,000) – an increase of 6.2% compared to 2022.

In November 2023 the ONS revealed that the increase in average employee wages was recorded at 7.7% for the three month period of July to September. It means the growth in wages was higher than the rate of inflation over the same period (6.7%). It is the biggest margin for average pay increases to outstrip inflation in two years.

Kevin Pratt, editor of Forbes Advisor, says: “This data is a blunt measure of overall earnings. Wages vary widely depending on a range of factors, such as your age, where you live in the country, whether you’re in the public or private sector and the industry you work in – as well as your seniority level.

“Rampant inflation in 2022 and the first half or more of 2023 has eroded the spending power of people’s salaries, and it is only as the year draws to an end that we are seeing wages outstrip rising prices once again. But inflation remains relatively high compared to recent years, so it is important not to get complacent about defeating the cost of living crisis.”

The median pay of the top chief executives (FTSE 100 bosses) was recently revealed to be £3.91 million in 2022, a 16% increase in a year. The figure, published by the High Pay Centre, a think tank which tracks executive pay, is more than 118 times more than the average earnings of UK workers.

In contrast to this, there are around three million workers on the National Living Wage of £10.42 a year. This is set to rise to £11.44 an hour from April 2024 and at the same time eligibility will be extended from 23 to 21. National Minimum Wage (for workers 18-20) will get a £1.11 hourly increase to £8.60 per hour from next April.

More detailed information on average workers’ earnings can be found in the ONS’s Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings – the latest edition of which was published on 1 November 2023.

Below we break down some of the report’s findings to get a better understanding of wages across the country.

Average earnings by age

  • The median average weekly full-time* wage in the UK is £682 (gross) 
  • The median average weekly earnings for part time workers is £241
  • Workers aged between 40-49 have the highest median average weekly pay (£770 for full-time gross pay)
  • Younger earners under the age of 30 earn around 25% less than workers aged over 40.

Source: ONS Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings (November 2023).

*Full time pay is classed as 30 hours a week or more.

The ONS data reveals our age has a big bearing on our earnings, with weekly pay rising, on average, as we get older, until we hit 50. The average UK weekly wage is £682. That’s the equivalent of around £35,464 a year (£682 x 52 weeks of the year).

Pay tends to rise throughout our 20s, 30s and 40s showing that it tends to be these decades when the biggest career advancements typically happen, bolstered by factors such as skills and training, educational attainment, experience, job change and promotion.

This is important information for employers and workers alike. It highlights the importance of skill development and work experience in bridging the income gap.

As younger individuals mature, expand their skills and accumulate work experience, their earning potential should usually significantly improve, ultimately driving the overall growth of their salaries throughout their careers.

Interestingly full time average earnings start to decline after the age of 50, according to the survey. This could be due to more people taking early retirement or leaving the workforce, to go part-time or due to ill health, for example.

The median average wage is the ONS’s preferred measure. The median average is less affected by a relatively small number of very high earners and the skewed distribution of earnings that can bring. The ONS says the median average is a better indication of typical pay than the mean.

Average earnings by age and gender

  • Men earn more than women for full-time work in every age range
  • The gender pay gap was 7.7% in April 2023* (down slightly from 8.3% in April 2022)
  • There remains a large difference in the gender pay gap between employees aged between 30 and 59
  • Compared with lower-paid employees, higher earners experience a much larger difference in hourly pay between the sexes.

*The gender pay gap is calculated by the ONS as the difference between average hourly earnings of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings. It is a measure across all jobs, not of the difference in pay between men and women doing the same job.

The table shows for full time work the average weekly pay of men outstrips that of women at every age. The gap widens significantly from the age of around 30 until workers are in their 60s, no doubt due to more women than men having a more disrupted career path due to caring responsibilities, either children or elderly relatives. Women tend to be more likely to take career breaks and re-enter the workforce in lower paid roles.

The median annual salary of men aged between 50 and 59 in full time work is £40,768 – 21% more than women of the same age, where the median salary is £33,592. And while the differential is smaller for younger workers – the average salary for men aged 22 to 29 is 7% higher at £31,408 compared to £29,380 for women, it shows the gender pay gap is still an issue.

The only area where women earn more, on average, is in part time work. The median average part time salary for women is £246 per week, according to the ONS, compared to £211 per week for men.

How does location affect average salary?

  • London salaries are highest for all age groups over 22
  • Scottish wages tend to be higher than those in Wales
  • Wages are highest for young workers (18-21) in the West Midlands.

Where you live and work is a major factor in how much you take home in your pay packet. 

Employers will usually have to pay the highest wages in those areas where living costs are higher, such as London and the South East. ONS data reinforces this, showing London wages to be highest in every age group, except the youngest. 

Wages for workers aged 18-21 are higher than London in a number of areas, including the West Midlands, the East, the North East and the South West.

For older workers over 60 living outside London, the East, the South East and Scotland have the highest median weekly wages.

Which occupations have the highest average salaries?

  • Workers in managerial and professional occupations have the highest salaries
  • Health professionals earn slightly more on average than teaching and education professionals
  • The leisure and travel sector has some of the lowest weekly wages.

The lowest-earning employees tend to be part time, younger (aged between 18 and 21 years) and in what is often termed the ‘elementary occupations’, such as cleaning, food services, deliveries or in the hospitality industry, for example.

The highest-earning employees are concentrated in managerial and professional occupations and are aged between 35 and 49 years.

Top 10 highest paying jobs

When it comes to the top paying roles in the UK unsurprisingly senior executives, directors and managers tend to be paid the most.

Listed below are the occupations with the highest median average pay for full-time workers (given in brackets), according to ONS research for 2023: 

  • Chief executives: £84,131
  • Marketing, sales and advertising executives: £83,015
  • IT directors: £80,000
  • Public relations and communications directors: £79,886
  • Logistics, warehousing and transport directors: £72,177
  • Pilots and air traffic controllers: £71,676
  • Financial managers and directors: £70,000
  • Functional managers and directors: £69,933
  • Specialist medical practitioners: £66,031
  • Head teachers and principals: £66,014

The latest ONS data reveals that, on average, full-time public sector workers have higher pay than those in the private sector with an average weekly gross pay of £723, compared to £670 per week in the private sector.

How education level affects average pay

It would seem logical that the higher the level of education a worker has, such as a university degree or post-graduate degree, then the bigger the salary they should be able to command in the workplace. 

Figures compiled by the ONS using census data show this to be the case. Workers with an undergraduate degree earn, on average, 113% more than those with no qualifications and 60% more than those who stopped formal education after A Levels.

Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) in 2020 found that over their working lives graduates are financially better off than those who do not go to university. On average, men are £130,000 better off over their working lifetime, after tax and student loan repayments are taken into account. For women the figure is £100,000 on average.

But the IFS says average returns ‘mask big differences across individuals’, so while the majority will gain financially from getting a bachelor’s degree, it is estimated around one in five (about 70,000 students per year) would have been better off financially had they not gone to university.

While around 10% of graduates with the highest returns will gain, on average, around half a million pounds due to their higher education. The subject graduates studied will have a big bearing on this, with students of computer science and IT, medicine and law, for example, potentially able to secure higher than average starter salaries.

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