Struggling workers face £4.1 billion Christmas de...

Struggling workers face £4.1 billion Christmas debt mountain

17 December 2012

Rising prices and falling wages means eight in ten workers will struggle to meet the cost of Christmas this year, with 60 per cent cutting back, and a fifth borrowing on average £700 to make ends meet over the festive season.

The findings involving 8,462 respondents from an independent survey for Britain’s largest union, Unite, point to an estimated £4.1 billion Christmas debt mountain for workers to pay off in the new year (see notes).  

Across the age groups, workers in their twenties are more likely to struggle to pay for Christmas, with 29 per cent being forced into debt, while people in their forties are borrowing the most and face a massive £839.81 to pay off. 

Among men and women, just 14 per cent of females said they would not have a problem meeting the cost of Christmas compared to nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of males.  

Of those cutting back this Christmas, 46 per cent of respondents said they would be cutting back on presents and a quarter on food.

Results from earlier in the year show that even before Christmas workers were facing spiralling levels of debt to pay for essentials, such as food and housing costs. Between March and September the average amount working people borrowed to get through the month rose sharply by £200 from £127 to £327.

Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, said: “Working men and women are facing a Christmas debt mountain thanks to Scrooge brothers Cameron and Osborne. Falling living standards and biting austerity mean a Christmas of worry and a new year of debt for many. 

“As the money runs out and the bills stack up, people will be burying themselves in debt to pay for the essentials, let alone the Christmas turkey or this year’s ‘must have’ for the kids. 

“There will be no such worries for Cameron and Osborne as they mug hardworking families this Christmas to give handouts to millionaires in the new year.

“Ordinary people struggling to get by face more financial hardship in Christmases to come, unless we have a change of course and a government that invests in growth and jobs.”

The independent survey conducted for Unite by Mass1, a social research company, has tracked around 350,000 people, mainly members of Unite, since January 2011.  It is understood to be the biggest survey to capture the experiences of working people during the economic crisis in the UK. 


For further information contact Alex Flynn, Unite head of media and campaigns, on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665 869.

Notes to editors:

  • A Powerpoint presentation of the survey is available from Alex Flynn
  • Figures in the survey are matched against UK population demographics as classified by Experian Mosaic demographics. 
  • The estimated £4.1 billion Christmas debt mountain is calculated by taking 20 per cent of the working population which equates to 5,920,000 and multiplying it by £700. According to the survey £700 is the average amount working people will be borrowing this Christmas.
  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.