‘Generational pay gap’ in the South West has more than doubled in last 20 years, warns TUC

  • The pay gap between under-30s and over-30s in the South-West is now 25%, compared to 11.9% in 1998.

The pay gap between young and older workers in the South West has increased by more than half in the last 20 years, according to a new analysis published today (Monday) by the TUC.

The report shows that in 1998 the pay gap between over-30s and under-30s in the region was 11.9% (£1.15 an hour in 2017 prices). However, in 2017 it had widened to 25% (£3 an hour).

The generational pay gap has increased in real terms from £2,392 in 1998 to £6,240 in 2017 for someone working a 40-hour week. It has grown by £3,848 over the last two decades.

Low-paid sectors

To mark its 150th year, the TUC is highlighting the challenges young people today face in the world of work, including low pay, insecurity and lack of progression.

Nationally, more than a third (36.1%) of under-30s are currently work in caring, sales or elementary occupations, compared to just over a quarter (25.8%) of over-30s.

And the number of 21-30 year-olds working in low-paid industries like private social care (+104%) and hotels and restaurants (+80%) has shot up since 1998, even though today’s young workers are the most qualified generation ever.

TUC Regional Secretary for the South West Nigel Costley said:

“Young people are getting a raw deal at work. Too many are stuck in low paid, insecure jobs, with little opportunity to get on in life.

“This is the most qualified group of workers ever. But huge numbers of hardworking young people are struggling to meet basic living costs – and many more can’t afford a home of their own or are putting off having children.

“Joining together in a trade union is the best way to get a better deal at work. That’s why we’re committed to reaching out to more young people in workplaces where there isn’t a union.”

  • The TUC’s most recent report on young workers – published in June 2018 – is available here
  • In June 2018, the TUC launched a pilot version of a new app – WorkSmart – that helps young people to progress at work, build relationships with co-workers, and learn about their rights.

Age pay gap: 21-30 vs 31-64-year-old employees in the South West (real 1998 wages)


1998 (21-30) real pay

1998 (31-64) real pay

pay gap 1998 (check)

2017 (21-30)

2017 (31-64)

Pay gap 2017








South West







Source: LFS whole year average, median pay. 1998 pay expressed in 2017 values (CPI deflator)

Percentage in elementary, sales, caring and leisure occupations


Elementary, sales, caring and leisure

Total 21-30


Total 31-64


Source: LFS autumn quarter 2017

  • LFS figures: TUC research, using the UK Data Archive.
  • – Congress 2018 will be held in Manchester Central from Sunday 9 September to Wednesday 12 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/applying-media-or-external-visitor-credentials and completing an online form. Applications must be in by noon on Tuesday 28 August. Any received later than that will be processed in Manchester and will cost £75.
  • The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.