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Unsecured debt hits new peak of £14,540 per household

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Household unsecured debt rose to a record high in 2019, reaching £14,540 in the third quarter of the year.

This is up £430 from figures recorded a year earlier, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Unsecured debt such as bank and student loans, payday loans, credit and store cards (not mortgages), has risen to £407bn in Q3 2019, smashing through the £400bn barrier for the first time.

It is well above the £286bn recorded in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis and the TUC said average household debt is now 31% above this peak.

Unsecured debt as a share of household income is now back to the same record high of 27.5% that it reached in 2008 at the outset of the financial crisis.

However, real median weekly wages are still £14 (3%) below their 2008 level.

As part of the TUC analysis of rising household debt, it blames the minimum wage being too low, stating it should be raised to £10 as quickly as possible. Zero-hours contracts and insecure work are also behind growing debt, as is Universal Credit which it says is pushing families into hardship due to the five-week wait for payments. Wage growth has also been slow because workers have too little power to bargain for higher wages.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses. This is hard-up families borrowing just to scrape by. It’s for paying the rent, heating the home and feeding the kids.

“The reason we’re seeing this is bad management of the economy. Wages are still worth less than a decade ago. Too many people have insecure jobs with uncertain hours. And vital support like working tax credits has been cut.

“No more excuses – the government must put together an urgent plan to improve living standards and to help families struggling with dangerous levels of debt.”

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