If my job were a tin of Heinz baked beans, I would be earning £63,000 a year. I am not.
I always feel a bit inadequate, a bit of a failure for not being able to quite manage from one month to the next. Me and my husband are both teachers so I feel that in a just world, we should be quite comfortable yet this is not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, we usually have a bottle of wine in the cupboard and our children get an occasional magazine or trip to soft play. We’re fine. But if something breaks it stays broken… for months. We have no savings to cover a punctured tyre or a wind-blown fence and we usually have to put petrol or a food shop on to a credit card at the end of the month.
These feeling of failure, along with a deep bitterness that I couldn’t take more time off work to raise my children and with my all too acute awareness that I am nowhere near as poor as the poorest in this country (how on earth do other people manage?) drove me to do some number crunching.
I feel inadequate, but this is in comparison to what has gone before us. That’s all we have to compare with, right? So I looked at what a teacher’s salary would have been in 1995, for someone with the same number of years experience as me. I was just starting secondary school myself in 1995. I found out that they would earn £28,329. Lovely.
So to understand what sort of life I’d have been having were I born 20 years earlier, I did a quick Zoopla check to see how much I’d have paid for my house back then. The answer: £43,000. In that 20 years, my house has increased by a staggering 215%. I bought this house, a 45 minute drive from where I actually wanted to live, because it was cheap.
If a teachers salary had increased at the same rate, I’d be on over £89,000 today. I am not. £89,000 is considerably more than both mine and my husband’s salaries combined. No wonder one wage isn’t enough to support the whole family any more!
But house prices, deposits and mortgage repayments are just one aspect of living. What about fuel costs and food?
In 1995 the average domestic fuel bill was £90. Today it’s £125. 140% of what it was. If my job was fuel, I’d currently be on £39,500. I am not.
A tin of Heinz baked beans in 1996 cost 33p (please excuse the inconsistency, 1995 baked beans data is difficult to find!) whereas at 75p today, they’ve more than doubled in price.
If my value as a teacher doubled like a tin of beans, I would be earning £56,000 – £63,500 a year. Maybe then I could fix my leaking washing machine or stop worrying about that knocking noise my car makes. I could maybe even save a little money, and pay for my children’s university fees. But that’s another story, for another day.
So what’s my point? That teachers should be earning over £63,500? No, not really but that something has to give. We cannot blame parents for not staying at home when they can’t afford to; we cannot be blaming benefit claimants who work a 40 hour week on minimum wage because that wage doesn’t cover their bills; we can’t blame people living off welfare who’ve chosen to raise their own children but who can no longer manage on a single wage. We can not, must not, will not allow our government; the people voted in to represent us and be our voice, to use that voice to accuse poor people of bad money management. People want to be able to earn an honest living and with that hard earned cash be able to put a roof over their family’s head, cover the fuel bills and buy a tin of beans (not caviar) to put on their toast.
In 1995/96 we wouldn’t have dreamed of this struggle. Remember: things could only get better…
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