House of Commons Library

National Minimum Wage Statistics

Published Friday, February 2, 2018

This briefing looks at trends in the value of the UK National Minimum Wage, the number of jobs paid at the National Minimum Wage and how the National Minimum Wage compares internationally.

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Note: These figures are from 2018.
For up to date figures on the minimum wage visit
For recent reports visit the Low Pay Commission.

What is the National Minimum Wage?

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies to most workers and sets minimum hourly rates of pay. The rates are provided in regulations made by the Secretary for State with parliamentary approval, based on the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission (LPC).

NMW rates vary by age group. From April 2017, the minimum wage is:

  • £7.50 per hour for adults aged 25 and over, rising to £7.83 per hour from April 2018 (this is the "National Living Wage" rate)
  • £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, rising to £7.38 from April 2018
  • £5.60 for 18-20 year olds, rising to £5.90 from April 2018
  • £4.05 for 16-17 year olds, rising to £4.20 from April 2018
  • £3.50 for apprentices aged under 19 or in their first year of an apprenticeship, rising to £3.70 from April 2018.

How has the value of the NMW changed over time?

The value of each minimum wage rate is higher in real terms (i.e. has increased faster than prices) since the NMW was first introduced in 1999. However, in the aftermath of the 2008/09 recession, the real value of all minimum wage rates decreased. With the exception of the rate for 16-17 year olds, the various NMW rates have now increased again in real terms to above their pre-recession levels.

Unlike the other NMW rates, the National Living Wage is subject to a Government target that its value must reach 60% of median earnings (the point at which half of people earn more and half earn less) by 2020. At October 2017, the National Living Wage stood at around 57% of median earnings for people aged 25 and over, as estimated by the Low Pay Commission.

How many people are paid at the NMW?

The Low Pay Commission estimates that there were 1.9 million jobs paid at or below the NMW in April 2017, around 6.7% of all employee jobs. This compares to 1.5 million jobs paid at or below the NMW in 2015, before the introduction of the National Living Wage. The coverage of the NMW is expected to increase to around 3.4 million employees by 2020 as the National Living Wage moves towards its 2020 target.

Jobs paid around the minimum wage are concentrated within a small number of low-paying occupations. The Low Pay Commission estimates that half of all jobs paying at or below the minimum wage are in retail, hospitality and cleaning & maintenance occupations.

How does the NMW compare to minimum wages in other countries?

The UK has a relatively high minimum wage, in terms of monetary value, compared with other OECD countries. In 2016, the UK had the ninth highest adult minimum wage out of 27 OECD countries (based on the National Living Wage rate) after taking into account differences in the cost of living.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-7735

Authors: Jennifer Brown; Feargal McGuinness

Topics: Employment, Pay

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