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Now and Then: 30 killer statistics showing how the UK has changed since the last major Royal wedding

    The impending Royal Wedding will happen almost 30 years after Charles and Diana tied the knot in July 1981. There is no doubt that life in Britain has changed substantially since then, both economically and socially. Below I have presented 30 statistics (one per year) that I have come across during my time researching at the CPS. They have been chosen to reflect key trends over the period:


    1) In 1981, GDP per capita in the UK was £11,885 in 2005 prices. Today, it is £21,110.

    2) Public spending in 1981 amounted to £335 billion in 2009/10 prices. This year the government will spend £676 billion.

    3) China was the world’s 11th largest economy in 1981. It is now the 2nd largest and is predicted by the IMF to become the largest economy by 2016.

    4) The average house price in 2009/10 prices was £74,666 in 1981. It is now £162,379 (and did peak at £203,704 before the recession).

    5) The Bank of England interest rate was 12% in 1981; now it is just 0.5%.

    6) In 1981, there were 4.27 million days lost to strike action. In 2009, there were just 0.45 million.

    7) 25% of UK gross value added was in Manufacturing in 1981. By 2009 this figure had fallen to 10%.


    8) In the election of 1979, the Conservative and Labour parties shared 80.8% of the popular vote. But in the election of 2010, this had fallen to 65.1%.

    9) In 1981 there were just 19 female MPs, comprising 3% of the total. After the 2010 general election, there were 141 (or 22% of the total).

    Living Standards

    10) The average proportion of income spent on food has fallen from 22% in 1981, to 17% in 2010.

    11) The cost of a flight to Paris in 2009/10 prices in 1981 was around £415. Today, it is £54 with a low-cost airline.

    12) In 1981, the proportion of gross income received from benefits for the poorest 50% of the population was 36%. This has now risen to 40%.

    13) A litre of petrol was £1.05 in 1981 (2010 prices). Today it is £1.36.

    14) A pint of beer is £2.80 today, but it was only £1.49 in 1981 (2010 prices).

    Social Policy

    15) In 1981 there were 351,973 marriages in England and Wales. In 2009 there were just 231,490 (the lowest number since 1895).

    16) 49% of marriages in 1981 were civil ceremonies. In 2009, this figure was 67%.

    17) The proportion of children born outside of marriage was 14.1% in 1981. This figure is now 45%.

    18) In 1981, the UK faced net emigration of 80,000. In 2009, net immigration was 196,000.

    19) In 1981, 6% of those living in the UK were born abroad. Now, the figure is 11%.

    Public services

    20) Public health spending as a proportion of GDP was 4.7% in 1981. It is now 7.95%.

    21) In 1981, there were 1.16 million employed in the whole NHS for Great Britain. Now, there are 1.4 million NHS employees in England alone.

    22) The total UK prison population was 42,000 in 1981 (or 0.07% of the population). It is now 95,000 (approx. 0.15% of the population).

    23) In 1981 32% of 16-18 year olds were in full-time education. In 2009, it was 78.8%.

    24) The number of individuals in higher education was 466,000 in 1980/81. In 2008/09 there were 2.4 million.

    Media and broadcasting

    25) The RPI index for telecoms has fallen by approximately 16% since 1981, reflecting the benefits of privatisation and competition in the industry.

    26) In 1981, BBC One’s share of total viewing figures was 39%. It is now 21%.

    27) In 1981, there were 3 UK television channels; now there are 980.

    28) In 1981, there were 16 million newspapers circulated; now there are around 10 million.

    29) The most watched television programme in 1981 was the film Jaws, with 23.3 million viewers. In 2010, it was the X-Factor final results with 16.6 million.

    30) In 1981, Satellite TV began to be trialled for the first time. Today 7.4 million people have either digital or analogue satellite television.

    And finally, when Charles and Diana got married the UK number one single was ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials. Now it is LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem. Evidently, some things can still only get better.

    Ryan joined the Centre for Policy Studies in January 2011, having previously worked for a year at the economic consultancy firm Frontier Economics.

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