Commission on Living Standards

Resolution Foundation

What is the Commission?

The Commission on Living Standards was an independent and wide ranging investigation into the pressures facing people on low to middle incomes. The Commission ran from February 2011 to October 2012 and brought together a range of leading employers, trade unionists, economists and the heads of parent networks. The Commission’s work focused on the long term economic trends that are causing the living standards of ordinary working households to falter in mature economies. It also presented an account of how policy can be reformed to boost household incomes. The Commission’s work was hosted by the Resolution Foundation, a think tank working to improve the lives of low to middle income households.

Why was the Commission set up?

The Commission was established amid rising concern that ordinary working households in Britain had been finding life unexpectedly hard even before the 2008 crisis struck. Wages had flat-lined, the group’s share of national income was in long term decline, and the tax-benefit system had come to provide the only major source of income growth. Other countries, most notably the United States, had experienced a far longer stagnation of incomes, ringing alarm bells. The Commission sought to better understand this phenomenon and what can be done to change course.

How did the Commission operate?

The Commission met regularly throughout 2011 and 2012 to discuss research submitted by a wide range of organisations. Overall, the Commission published 20 major research papers, diagnosing the problem and to examining potential responses. The Commission’s work was supported by a series of major public events, including speeches from leading figures in all three major political parties, as well as public debates and panel discussions. The Commission’s final report, Gaining from Growth, was published in October 2012, providing the most authoritative account to date of long-term trends in living standards and the practical steps that can be taken to support incomes in the coming years.