Earning power peaks at age of 38

Romsey Advertiser: The gender pay gap has narrowed in recent years The gender pay gap has narrowed in recent years

Workers typically reach the peak of their earning power at the age of 38, official statistics show.

People now have to wait nearly a decade longer to reach the height of their earnings than they did in the 1970s, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report, although in real terms they are paid more when they do reach this peak.

It said that in 2013, the people with the highest average wages were aged 38 years old and they earned £13.93 per hour typically.

In 1975, the group with the highest average earnings were 29-year-olds, although they typically earned less at their peak when inflation is taken into account than people do today. In the mid-1970s, someone aged 29 typically earned £7.09 per hour in 2013 prices.

The earnings of men and women peak at very different stages of their lives. A woman will typically reach the height of her earning power at the age of 34, when she is earning around £13.19 per hour.

Meanwhile a man will see his earning power reach its height at the age of 50, when he is earning £15.54 per hour on average. The difference reflects many women returning to work part time after having children.

The report said that the earnings gender gap has reduced "dramatically" since the mid-1970s, and these days, the difference in male and female pay is "close to zero" until people reach around 30 years old.

In 1975, a 38-year-old man typically earned 61% more than a woman. In 2013, the gap between the amounts earned by men and women peaked at the age of 49, when men earned 45% more than women.

The report, titled UK Wages Over the Past Four Decades, also found that people who started work in the 1990s have been paid 40% more in real terms on average in their first 18 years of work than those who started in the 1970s.

The difference means that someone who started work in 1975 would have to work three to four years longer than someone who started work in 1985 to build up around the same amount of earnings, and five to six years longer than someone who started their career in 1995.

The ONS said that someone embarking on their career aged 21 in 1975 typically earned 94p per hour or £5.49 in 2013 prices.

Someone of the same age starting out in 1985 earned around £2.70 per hour, or £5.93 in 2013 prices, while a 21-year-old in 1995 was typically earning £4.48, or £6.57 in 2013 money.

For workers across almost every age group, average real earnings were higher in 2009, just before the effects of the economic downturn were felt on wages and inflation, than they were in 2013.

The impact of the squeeze on pay since 2009 has been felt more keenly by younger workers.

The typical wages of someone aged 28 have the furthest way to go to catch up to 2009 levels. Last year, the average 28-year-old earned almost one fifth (17.6%) less than someone of this age in 2009.

In general, the earnings of people aged in their 20s were 12% lower on average in 2013 than earnings for people from the same age group in 2009.

Moving up the age groups, the distance from 2009's earnings peak becomes less severe. People aged in their 30s earned around 9% less last year than a typical thirtysomething in 2009, while the average percentage fall over this period was around 5% for the over-50s.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Now the economy is growing again, the priority must be a pay rise for Britain's workers. It's time to build on the minimum wage and bring in living wages to end the injustice of in work poverty."

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