UK households are taking on more debt than ever to make ends meet. In this climate, rising employment figures mean nothing

With a government torn apart by Brexit and a country falling to pieces because of that government, Conservative MPs have a fallback they sometimes like to use as proof of their success: the UK has record employment levels. It’s a proud badge of honour they wear, fetishising work – it doesn’t matter what that work looks like or how much it pays – because it’s supposedly a sign that the economy is doing well. The thing is, people might be in work, but they’re also in debt.

Britain’s household debt has reached a new high. According to the TUC, UK households now owe an average of £15,385 to credit card firms, banks and other lenders. There might be some quibbling over what’s included in these figures. Unlike the Bank of England, in its calculations the TUC includes increasingly exorbitant student loans, which have eye-wateringly high interest rates. But even if we were to take those out of the equation – leaving debt at half that estimated by the TUC – the level of debt, the nature of that borrowing and why it’s being accrued spells trouble. In 2017, academic Johnna Montgomerie called it “one of the biggest problems facing the United Kingdom’s economy and society”.

Related: Average UK household debt now stands at record £15,400

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