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Fewer than half of Britons expect to ever earn £30,000 a year or currently do so, a new YouGov survey shows.
More than one in 20 people even told YouGov they did not think they would ever earn £15,000 a year.
The survey results come on the same day official figures reveal how much the average British household lives on in total earnings or benefits.
UK households have an average median income after tax of £29,400, while the average mean income is £35,300 a year, according to separate Office for National Statistics (ONS) data published on Friday.
The median is the income in the middle of the UK income ladder, while the mean is the sum of everybody’s income divided by the number of people.
The YouGov survey suggests only 21% of individuals in work take home £30,000 or more a year, and only a further 24% expect to earn that much in the future.
Some 7% of Britons think they will never earn £15,000 a year, 14% think they will never earn £20,000, and 21% think they will never earn £25,000.
People get less and less optimistic about their pay
“The survey showcases the sad spectacle of expectations coming into contact with reality, with younger Britons being more optimistic about their eventual earnings but with older age groups becoming progressively less ambitious,” according to Matthew Smith, a data journalist at YouGov.
More than half of 18-24-year-olds expect to earn £35,000 a year at some point, but the number either still expecting to earn that or actually receiving it in their 50s is far lower at 31%.
Men are twice as likely to expect to earn £50,000 a year
The figures reveal a “starling difference in income expectations,” according to YouGov.
Male workers are 10% more likely to expect to ever earn £20,000 than women, and more than twice as likely to expect to or currently earn £50,000 a year.
29% of men either earn or think they will one day earn £50,000 a year, compared to 13% of women.
The gender gap in high pay expectations is starkest for young people
The gap in high earnings expectations between men and women is highest when they are young.
Women aged 18-24 are 21% less likely to expect to or currently earn £50,000 a year than men of the same age group.
Non-graduates are far less likely to think they will earn £35,000 a year
The figures reveal further gaps in expectations between people who have and have not gone to university, with graduates typically expecting higher salaries.
More than one in three non-graduates think they will never earn £20,000 a year.
65% of students and graduates think they will earn £35,000 a year, compared to just 36% of non-graduates.
Average incomes have risen in Britain in the past year
The ONS data published on Friday shows the median income of UK households, which can include more than one earner and also include benefits, has risen by £400 over the past year.
The government’s statistics body called the 1.4% rise “modest growth,” continuing a trend in recent years.
Many economists are surprised pay is not rising faster in Britain given record employment, which is generally expected to force up wages as employers have to work harder to find, recruit, and keep staff.