How much did people earn in the 1960s?

You could start work at age 15 in the 1960s
You could start work at age 15 in the 1960s

People earned a lot less in the 1960s than they do today. Women in the 1960s earned a lot less than men. Often only half as much.

£1,000 was considered a good annual salary in the 1960s. People saw this as the dividing line between a well-paid respectable job and a poorly-paid job. £1,000 in 1965 would only be about £14,000 today. The average salary today (in 2021) is £29,600. We are much better off now. Whilst prices have gone up, earnings have increased more.

Manual occupations

Manual work was a big part of the economy in the 1960s. Rates of pay for male manual workers improved greatly in the 1960s:

Source: New Earnings Survey (NES) time-series of gross weekly earnings from 1938 to 2017, published by the Office for National Statistics

Women doing manual jobs were paid lot less:

Source: New Earnings Survey (NES) time-series of gross weekly earnings from 1938 to 2017, published by the Office for National Statistics

A large number of men were employed in engineering in the 1960s making cars, buses, machines and tools. The average manual wage in engineering occupations in 1960 was £14 2s 1d per week.

In 1964 the average pay of male workers in industry was £17 12s. Women lagged well behind, earning an average of only £8 16s 4d.

Farm work was not well paid in the 1960s
Farm work was not well paid in the 1960s

Farm work was poorly paid for men as well as women. In 1962 the average pay for a farm worker was just £8 15s per week.

School leavers

The school-leaving age in the 1960s was fifteen. If you left school at that age you would have no qualifications. Children did not take GCEs and CSEs until their final year at age sixteen.

You could, however, leave school at fifteen and go straight into a job.

Prudential Assurance offered jobs to sixteen year old school leavers with five GCEs including maths and English starting at £555 per annum. If you had A-levels you could get an extra £35. The job was on offer to both young men and women, although women could join without O-levels and get £525.

That was not too bad, a junior typist would only get about £8 per week at age fifteen.

You could also join the armed services at fifteen without any qualifications. Although officer cadets needed at least 5 GCEs or preferably A-levels.

Women's Royal Air Force c1960
Women's Royal Air Force c1960

Armed services

In 1966 you could join the Army between age fifteen and seventeen as an apprentice technician. Fully-qualified technicians earned up to £1,000 per annum.

The last recruits were called up to do National Service in 1960. Their basic pay was very poor at only £1 18s per week. But National Servicemen had no choice.

Pay for regular soldiers was better. In 1961 a regular a soldier would get about £7 per week and a platoon sergeant could get £16 per week. [Hansard HC Deb vol 619 col 435 (9 March 1960).]

Teachers

Teachers' pay varied enormously in the 1960s depending on qualifications and experience. Non-graduate teachers fared the worst. A newly-qualified teacher could expect to receive just £570 in 1962. This was below the average male manual wage. Teachers' pay rose to £750 after five years' experience.

Graduates did better. Their salaries started at £830 and rose to £1,040 with five years' experience.

Footballers

In the 1960s footballers earned a lot less than they do today. In 1960 a professional footballer would get a wage of between £10 and £20 per week in the playing season. In the off-season they got between £8 and £17. These figures did not include bonuses and transfer fees.

Police

In 1969 police constables earned up to £1,195 in the provinces and £1,310 in London from aged twenty-two. They also got a generous housing allowance or a rent-free police house.

Pay behind bars

Prisoners

Prisoners were paid for doing basic tasks during their time in the jail. In 1961 they could earn between 2s 6d to 6s per week. Of course, the prisoners' accommodation was included!

Prison officers

The starting salary for a prison officer in 1969 was £1,100

What were the best paid jobs?

Medicine was one of the better-paid careers in the 1960s. In 1962 the average salary of a doctor working for the NHS was £2,387. A doctor could do even better in the armed services, where pay averaged £2,750 for doctors aged twenty-five to fifty-six.

The top careers in the 1960s were in advertising, marketing or public relations. New entrants could expect to be earning £2,500 by the time they were thirty. Management consultants, organisational consultants and works study men could expect to get £2,350. If you were good at maths, computer programming or accounting this could net you £2000. [1]

Managers in some industries did even better. In 1969 a heating and air conditioning firm offered management roles with pay up to £5,000 pa. They needed to be experienced designers and estimators, as well being able to work with clients on large projects.

What did other jobs earn?

This is a selection of jobs that were advertised in the national press in the 1960s.

References

[1] 'These jobs carry the big money' by Joseph Minogue, published in The Observer, 12 September 1967, page 3

By Steven Braggs, March 2021

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles ★