Highest wage increases revealed: Jobs with inflation-beating salaries in the UK

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Just one in four (26%) full-time jobs in the UK have seen inflation-beating pay growth in the past two years – is yours one of them?

The latest employee earning figures from the Office for National Statistics show that many occupations in the UK have seen a fall in real wage growth over the past few years, when adjusted for inflation.

HR software provider Ciphr analysed the official data to find out which jobs have been the best and worst for salary increases since 2021.

Although the UK's inflation rate is now falling, for the past few years it has been persistently high – driven by steep increases in energy prices and food costs, global supply issues, and the war in Ukraine

In the 12 months to April 2023 (when the ONS' most recent earnings data was collected), UK inflation (CPIH) was running at 7.8% – the same rate as it was for the preceding 12 months to April 2022. In that time, cumulative inflation reached 16.2%.

This means that any job receiving salary increases that fell short of 16.2%, between April 2021 and April 2023, actually saw a drop in real-terms pay. Essentially, a pay cut.

And, unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened to the wages of many UK jobs. According to Ciphr's findings, the salaries for most (74%) full-time occupations in the UK didn't keep up, or outpace, such high inflation – despite some employees receiving sizeable pay hikes to help with cost-of-living increases.

 

Key stats:

  • 26% of full-time jobs (of those with available pay figures) reported salary increases that exceeded 16.2% cumulative inflation (ie their hourly pay rate grew by more than 16.2% between 2021 and 2023).
  • Over 4.2 million full-time workers in the UK are employed in occupations where pay has grown faster than inflation since 2021.
  • Just 45 full-time jobs (or 13%) saw inflation-beating salary rises in both years (ie their hourly pay rate grew by more than 7.8% in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023). Examples of roles which have seen their salaries increase by over 20% include vehicle and metal goods assemblers, web designers, catering and bar managers, bar staff, chefs, leisure and theme park attendants, waiters and waitresses, hairdressers and barbers, floorers and wall tilers, beauticians, early education and childcare assistants, coffee shop workers, crane drivers, dental nurses, and delivery drivers and couriers.
  • Of all the jobs with pay that has outpaced inflation since April 2021, just 26% have earnings above the UK's median average (excluding overtime) of £17.40 per hour. Examples of roles with above average pay include senior fire, ambulance, and prison officers, web designers, fashion designers, community nurses, garage managers and proprietors, PR and communication directors, and IT directors.

 

How does your job's pay compare to the UK average? Use Ciphr's salary checker.

 

Jobs with the highest wage increases since 2021

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The average full-time employee in the UK saw their median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) increase by 11.8% between 2021 and 2023, with basic pay rising from £15.57 to £17.40 an hour (about £33,930 a year*). When adjusted for cumulative inflation of 16.2%, however, that salary increase is actually a real-terms pay cut of -4.4%.

Ciphr compared the salary growth of over 350 occupations in the UK to identify all the jobs with wages that have outpaced inflation, and those whose pay has fallen behind inflation since 2021.

Check out the full results in the table below (occupations are ranked from the biggest to smallest % change in hourly pay) and use the search box to find your job. 

Not sure what your hourly rate is? Use Ciphr's hourly wage calculator to work it out.

Jobs with the biggest salary decreases since 2021

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Just one in four (24%) of the occupations included in Ciphr's study into inflation-busting pay growth have reported salary increases worth over 16.2% since 2021. Most did not see double-digit rises, with wages failing to keep up with high inflation for three in four (76%) occupations. 

Based on ONS figures, the typical hourly pay rise for full-time employees in the UK, between 2021 and 2023, was 11.8%. Yet a quarter (26%) of professions actually received a more modest pay bump of 7% (or less) in this time – well below the UK's inflation rate.

Jobs that fared the worst in terms of salary increases include psychologists, cyber security professionals, other education professionals (such as university administrators and bursars), legal professionals (such as legal advisers, notaries and paralegals), electronics engineers, artists, GPs and hospital doctors, arts officers, producers and directors, and tax experts (see the full list in the chart below). All of these jobs have seen hourly pay cuts since 2021 – made even more pronounced in real-terms when adjusted for high inflation (where prices for every day essentials are increasing but wages/purchasing power is decreasing). 

Other occupations impacted by high inflation and low wage increases include CEOs (0.9% pay growth), local government administrative occupations (1%), higher education teaching professionals (1.5%), clergy (1.7%), solicitors and lawyers (1.8%), nurse practitioners (2.3%) and newspaper and periodical editors (3%), among many others.

Full-time jobs that have seen the biggest drops in pay over the past few years:

Jobs with the biggest wage increases for men and women between 2022 and 2023

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Ciphr compared the salary growth of 220 occupations (with comparable full-time salary data) to reveal the UK jobs that have seen the biggest rises in hourly pay for men and for women (between 2022 and 2023).

Despite women’s hourly pay still lagging behind men’s hourly pay in most occupations, the latest earnings figures from the ONS do show some gains, in some jobs at least.

Even so, the UK is still many years away from achieving gender pay equality

The occupations with the highest pay growth for female employees in the last year, according to the most recent data, are skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors, and chartered architectural technologists, planning officers and consultants. These roles saw an average wage rise of 22%.

The job roles with the highest wage growth for male employees (all averaging over 20% pay rises) include physical scientists, travel agents, PR and communications directors, and managers and proprietors in other services (job titles in this occupational group include recruitment agency manager, driving school manager and customer experience manager).

The top 10 jobs that have seen the biggest rises in hourly pay for men and women since April 2022:

Gender pay gap 2023

Ciphr's latest research into the gender pay gap in the UK found that 78% of full-time occupations have a wage gap in favour of men.

While, generally, more full-time jobs have decreased their gender pay gaps than increased them, there is still a long way to go to reach zero. The average median gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK is currently 7.7%, which means that male employees get paid £18.02 an hour (excluding overtime), on average, while female employees typically earn 7.7% less an hour at £16.64. 

New analysis of the 2023 earnings figures, by Ciphr, reveals that 41% of professions (with comparable full-time salary data) pay men at least £1 an hour more than women. In some cases, such as financial managers and directors for example, men doing this job earn £10.75 more an hour, on average, compared to women in such roles.

For context, just 5% of job roles reportedly pay women at least £1 an hour more than men; with the widest disparity (£3.23) for biological scientists. 

Highest paying jobs in the UK 

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People employed as CEOs, PR directors, IT directors, sales directors and head teachers are in the best job roles for earning high pay in the UK, according to the latest ONS figures. But which jobs earn the most?

Based solely on basic hourly pay (excluding overtime) the highest paying occupation for full-time workers in 2023 is chief executives and senior officials, with an average salary of £43.12 an hour (2.5x the UK’s average hourly rate of £17.40). This works out to £84,084 a year. If this salary had kept pace with 16.2% cumulative inflation since 2021, however, their wages could, potentially, be £12,738 higher at £96,822.

Public relations and communications directors’ pay has outpaced inflation. People doing this job earn £42.09 an hour or £82,076 a year, up 25.8% since 2021.

The third highest paid occupation is information technology (IT) directors, with an average salary of £41.13 an hour or £80,204 a year. This occupation has also seen an inflation-busting 18.4% wage increase in the past few years.

The next two highest paying professions, despite below inflation wage increases, are marketing, sales and advertising directors, and head teachers and principals. Roles in these occupational groups average basic salaries of £40.72 and £39.12 an hour respectively (around £79,404 and £76,284 a year).

The top 10 also includes financial managers and directors, functional managers and directors, specialist medical practitioners, senior police officers, and IT project managers. All these jobs pay a high average hourly wage of at least £26.72 (about £55,000+)

The lowest earners in 2023, on average, were those working in elementary occupations (such as waiters and waitresses, vehicle valeters and cleaners, and bar staff) and sales and customer service occupations (such as retail cashiers and check-out operators, and pharmacy and optical dispensing assistants). Their average salaries, of £11.90 and £12.12 an hour respectively, are just over two-thirds of the UK average.

Top 25 highest paying jobs in the UK:

Jobs with the fastest growing workforces

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According to the UK's latest official labour market statistics, for the year to September 2023, there are around 21.5 million full-time employees (including permanent and temporary workers but not self-employed people).

Ciphr compared employment figures for 352 occupations to find out which jobs had seen the largest gains in employee numbers over the last year. 

Nearly a third (32%) of the jobs included in the study increased their workforces by a fifth (20%). Some (6%) more than doubled their workforce numbers. Examples of the fastest-growing occupational groups in 2023 include building and civil engineering technicians, textile process operatives, and other health professionals n.e.c. (such as audiologist, dietician, immunisation manager and mental health worker).

The number of people working as marine and waterways transport operatives, in the horticultural trades, and forestry and related workers has also increased (350%, 348% and 222% respectively) but pay data was unavailable for comparative purposes (so they weren't included in the table below).

On the flipside, around 29% of occupations have cut their workforces by a fifth. Some of the professions where employee numbers have significantly reduced in 2023 include metal making and treating process operatives, production managers and directors in mining and energy, interior designers, teachers of English as a foreign language, nursery teachers, IT project managers, and newspaper reporters.

Jobs with the most full-time employees in the UK currently include programmers and software development professionals (542,000 people), care workers and home carers (417,800), other administrative occupations (386,300), secondary education teaching professionals (339,800) and warehouse operatives (316,000).

Full-time jobs that have significantly increased their employee numbers in 2023:

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