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2021 in review

Read our review of 2021, and a summary of our reports, articles and events below

As 2021 comes to a close, what appears most notable are the striking similarities between now and this time last year – a new variant with high transmissibility causing governments to introduce new restrictions to reduce the spread, while businesses call for help as their customers stay at home. Once again we are reminded that despite high vaccine coverage, we are still in a pandemic and covid-19 continues to significantly affect our political, economic and social life.

We also continue to see the impact Covid-19 has had both on pay and inequality and debates around these topics. At the top end it has been a mixed picture. While the average pay of FTSE CEOs went down to the lowest level in over a decade due to temporary pay cuts and cancellation of bonuses at the start of the pandemic, a drop from £3.25 million in 2019 to £2.69 million in 2020, which still equates to the median FTSE 100 CEO getting paid 86 times more than the median UK worker. Meanwhile  the number of billionaires and billionaire wealth have grown significantly – both in the UK and globally.

In 2021 in the UK the number of billionaires reached 171 up by 24 on the year before and the highest number in the 33 years that the Sunday Times has been publishing its rich list. Globally there are now 2,755 billionaires up by 493 in the past year alone. Despite this, the British government has decided to resist pressure to increase taxation on wealth – for now at least.

For those on low and middle incomes the situation is less rosy. While there have been calls from the Prime Minister for employers to raise pay and the ending of the pay freeze for certain public sector workers, growth in the cost of living and the rise of national insurance may well cancel this out. Meanwhile the government has continued to resist pressure to raise statutory sick pay and has returned universal credit back to its pre-pandemic level, meaning that for many workers they may feel poorer than they did this time a year ago.

For the High Pay Centre, 2021 marked our ten year anniversary, and we have marked it by holding a number of panel discussions with speakers including former Shadow Secretary of State Vince Cable and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. Recordings of the events are available on our website

For anyone planning to catch up on reading over the holidays, you can find a selection of our main publications this year below.

In the meantime, we wish all of you a safe and merry Christmas. 

Reports

Blogs and OpEds