The ongoing saga of MP expenses has opened up a veritable kettle of worms in terms of what people earn, what they expect to earn – and crucially, how that compares to the rest of the population.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has a handy calculator that compares your income against the British national average (£390 for a two-adult household, after taxes and benefits).
My details against the IFS calculator show that I have a higher income than around 85% of the population. Then again, I’m in a single household with no dependents.
I’m reasonably happy with my salary – I don’t feel rich, but I don’t feel poor either. I’m not buying Tesco Value baked beans, but neither am I buying organically grown gourmet beans flown in from Fiji. But then once I discovered that some people earned far more than I did, I was slightly peeved for a while – for no good reason. My income hadn’t changed at all, but the knowledge that other people were doing far better than I did suddenly started to rankle slightly. For no good reason.
There’s a fascinating – if somewhat biased article – in The Guardian about the *emotional* gap between those working in the City and their reality. How everyone in the City assumes they’re working for a slave’s wage, yet can’t grasp the reality that they are far better off than most people. Because, alas, most people aren’t around them – they only see their peers.
Which is probably why MPs had no clue that the rest of the country would see what they were doing as thieving.
I’m fairly sure most of my friends would consider themselves to be average wage-earners, not earning that much more or less. But then the reality is, in fact, that they’re probably all earning far more than say 75% of the population.