Half a century of the retail price index

12th September 1997 at 01:00
While those born in 1947 have seen the value of the pound shrink 20-fold in their lifetime, earnings for the average male manual worker have risen by 50 times, leaving families better-off overall.

For the past 50 years, government inspectors have monitored the price of a "shopping basket" of goods and services bought by the average household, in an attempt to measure inflation - the retail price index.

In 1947, when the average weekly wage of a manual worker was Pounds 6, it cost three shillings (15p) to watch the FA Cup Final, or buy a 10-inch 78 rpm gramophone record.

The government's food basket of 1947 held a loaf of bread, a pint of milk, six eggs, a quarter-pound of tea, and a pound of butter, sugar and beef. It cost 5s 4d (27p), and represented two hours' labour for the average male manual worker.

Today's equivalent, with a different typical basket of goods, costs Pounds 6, less than an-hour's work for the average teacher, even though the prices of some items have increased well beyond the inflation rate. Bread is 40 times dearer than in 1947, while property can be up to 100 times more expensive.

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