Office for National Statistics written evidence submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry into the impact of the rising cost of living on women

Dear Ms Nokes, 

 I write in response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s call for evidence for their inquiry into the “Impact of the rising cost of living on women”.  

As the Committee is aware, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the  

largest producer of official statistics in the UK. We aim to provide a firm evidence base for sound decisions and develop the role of official statistics in democratic debate. As the UK’s National Statistical Institute, the ONS produces a wide range of economic and social statistics, including the latest data and trends about the cost of living and how this is affecting people in the UK.

 Since UK consumer price inflation peaked in October 2022, the cost of living in the UK has been fluctuating. To assist the Committee in understanding how these changes have impacted women, we have prepared a written evidence submission that provides a broad overview of the major after-effects of changes to the cost of living in the UK. This includes looking at the main drivers of rising inflation, food and beverage costs, energy costs, rental prices, among others.  

 This submission also details how data collected in the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey shows women are more likely than men to report difficulties in paying their energy bills and the unlikelihood that they will be able to save money in the future. Alongside this, we have provided analysis of the regional and national differences in how the cost of living has changed in recent months, as well as specifically looking at how those from the lowest income households have felt the effects. 

Changing cost of living

UK consumer price inflation (the rate at which prices faced by consumers change) began accelerating in Spring 2021 and peaked to a 40-year high of 9.6% in October 2022. Although rates are now falling, they have remained high in the year since. In the year to September 2023 the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH)was 6.3%, the lowest rate since March 2022.

The main drivers of rising inflation over the last two years have included food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing and household services (including rental costs and household energy costs), and transport (including fuel costs).

For food and non-alcoholic beverages, the annual inflation rate to peaked at 19.2% in March 2023, the highest rate in over 45 years. Since then, the annual rate has eased for six consecutive months. Food and non-alcoholic beverage prices showed the first month-on-month price reduction in September 2023.

Annual inflation for motor fuels has been negative since March 2023 reflecting the fall in fuel prices from a peak last year, but the drag on headline inflation has eased as fuel prices levelled off and then started to pick up. The price of motor fuels fell by 9.7% in the year to September 2023, compared with a fall of 16.4% in the year to August, reflecting falling petrol and diesel prices over the last year.

Gas and electricity prices rose at 1.7% and 6.7% respectively in the year to September 2023. Between June and July 2023, gas prices fell at record rates of 25.2%. This was largely because of the lowering of the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) price cap in that month.

Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK have risen by 5.7% in the 12 months to September 2023. Recent analysis showed that private renters on a median household income could expect to spend 26% of their income on a median-priced rented home in England, compared with 23% in Wales and 25% in Northern Ireland, in the FYE 2022. Comparatively, housing purchasing affordability analysis has shown a clear pattern of house prices increasing faster than incomes and UK inflation. In the FYE 2022, for homes in England, average house price to household income ratio was 8.4 (meaning 8.4 years of median income to afford median house price) compared to 6.4 in Wales, 5.3 in Scotland and 5.1 in Northern Ireland.

The annual growth for regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 7.8% in June to August 2023, according to the latest earnings data. This is similar to recent periods and one of the highest annual growth rates since comparable records began in 2001. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), regular pay rose by 1.1% on the year.

The gender pay gap, measured using the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), has been declining over time, and in April 2023 stood at 7.7%. The gap for full time employees is larger for those aged over 40, and for skilled trades occupations (15%) followed by process plant and machine operatives (14.3%). The gender pay gap is higher in all English regions than in Scotland (1.7%), Wales (5.6%) or Northern Ireland (negative 3.5%).

Insights from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey

The ONS has published a variety of analysis on the impact of the rising cost of living across a range of personal characteristics including sex.

Most recently, the latest article in the roughly quarterly series, Impact of increased cost of living on adults across Great Britain, provided information from the ONS’s Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) during the period February to May 2023. The article detailed the proportion of adults in Great Britain reporting an increase in their cost of living, the actions they are taking as a result, or the proportion of adults experiencing difficulty affording household expenses (such as energy, rent or mortgage payments or food), by personal characteristics including sex, (see tables 1.1, 2.1, 3.1 and 4.1), household size (tables 1.12, 2.12, 3.12 and 4.12), parental status (tables 1.11, 2.11, 3.11 and 4.11) or region (tables 1.3, 2.3, 3.3 and 4.3).

Estimates in these tables show for example, that women (50%) appear more likely to report it was difficult (very or somewhat) to afford their energy payments than men (45%) and appeared less likely to report thinking they will be able to save in the next 12 months (36% among women, 44% among men).

Considering impacts on other groups of the population likely of interest to the committee, these estimates also show that whilst around 1 in 20 (5%) adults reported that in the past two weeks they had ran out of food and had been unable to afford more, this proportion appeared higher among groups including those; receiving support from charities (45%), living in a household with one adult only and at least one child (28%), receiving some form of benefits or financial support (21%), Mixed or Multiple ethnicity adults (14%), Black, African, Caribbean or Black British adults (13%), renters (14%) and disabled adults (9%).

Looking at regional differences amongst people with these and other characteristics has not been examined using this data source due to sample sizes being too small at this level of geography.

Regional and national differences

The ONS has published a variety of subnational statistics that reflect the geographic differences and the impact of the changing cost of living. Subnational data on this topic has largely focussed on housing, energy insecurity and food insecurity.

The latest article on private housing rental prices showed that prices paid by tenants has varied by English region and UK nation. Private rental prices in Northern Ireland increased by 9.3% in the 12 months to July 2023. This is higher than for other UK countries during the same period when prices rose by 5.2% in England, 6.5% in Wales and 5.7% in Scotland.

In the 12 months to September 2023, private rental prices rose by 5.6% in England, 6.9% in Wales and 6.0% in Scotland. Amongst the English regions, London’s annual rent price inflation was 6.2% in the 12 months to September 2023. This was the highest annual increase across the English regions. This was followed by the West Midlands where annual rent inflation (5.7%) was also above the England average annual rise (5.6%). The North East had the lowest annual increase at 4.7% during the same time period.

The ONS has also published recent analysis on monthly repayments for newly issued mortgages over the past year, because of rising interest rates increasing the cost of borrowing. The analysis is based on some key trends from our mortgage repayments calculator tool and includes variation across English regions and UK nations. Although mortgage rates differ, depending on the size of the loan relative to the value of the property being purchased, house price differences between regions has meant that increases to monthly mortgage payments have varied. In particular, London’s higher house prices have resulted in the largest monthly cost increases. Conversely, Northern Ireland’s lower house prices have resulted in the smallest nominal increases to monthly repayments.

In February 2023, the ONS published analysis on the characteristics of adults experiencing energy food insecurity in Great Britain. Adults in the North East, the East of England, and the North West were all more likely to report that they had experienced food insecurity than those living in London. The analysis also showed that there was no geographic difference between adults reporting some form of energy insecurity.

Impact on lowest income households

Between the FYE 2021 and FYE 2022, median household disposable income for the poorest fifth of the population decreased by 3.8% to £14,500; compared to 1.6% increase for richest fifth. The largest contribution to change in disposable income across all households is attributable to original income, driven by a decrease of 4.0% in the poorest fifth of people, compared with an increase of 5.4% in the richest fifth of people.

More specifically, the poorest fifth of people saw a 7.5% decrease in wages and salaries, while the richest fifth saw a 7.8% increase, and a UK wide increase of 3.2%. For the poorest fifth of people, income was further reduced by a real-term reduction in cash benefits of 2.6% (a nominal £80 increase) between FYE 2021 and FYE 2022, which was not fully offset by a reduction in taxes.

Table 1 shows the equivalised (accounting for household composition) household disposable incomes for some groups, as published within the Effects of Taxes and Benefits release. For non-retired one adult households (without children), where the household reference person was a woman, the mean household disposable income was significantly below the UK average. The disposable household income for non-retired one adult households with children was significantly below the mean UK average, however this group is not routinely split by sex of the household reference person. For retired one adult households (both with and without children), where the household reference person was a woman, the mean household disposable income was significantly below the UK average.

Table 1: Annual equivalised (accounting for household composition) household disposable income by household composition, UK, Financial Year Ending 2022

Equivalised Household disposable Income (£)
UK MeanOne adult household (all)One adult household (women)One adult household (men)
Non-retired Households (with and without children)41,200
Non-retired households (without children)39,50036,50041,800
Non-retired households (with children)23,100
Retired households (with and without children)30,90026,70025,00030,100

When comparing spending by the poorest fifth to the richest fifth for FYE 2022, the richest fifth of households’ total weekly expenditure was more than twice that of the poorest fifth of households (£811.20 and £329.80, respectively) . In comparison, mean household disposable income was six times greater in the richest fifth of households than the poorest fifth. The poorest fifth of households continued to spend the greatest proportion of their total expenditure (25%) on housing (net), fuel and power. This is largely because of spending on actual rentals for housing (24% of their total expenditure). Note, housing (net) does not include mortgage payments, this is because mortgage capital payments are not regarded as a consumable item in line and instead add to personal wealth, while interest payments are classified as “other” expenditure, in line with international standards.

We hope this provides some interesting insights for you and the rest of the Committee. Please do not hesitate to let us know if we can provide anything further.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Keoghan

Deputy National Statistician for Economic, Social and Environmental Statistics

Office for National Statistics correspondence with the Environmental Audit Committee on Green Jobs

Dear Mr Dunne,

I am writing to you and the Committee to provide an update on recent and upcoming Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) environmental work. This includes work on the UK natural capital accounts, potentially useful background for the Committee’s “role of natural capital in the green economy” inquiry, as well as measuring green jobs, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environment-related publications.

Measuring green jobs

In our March 2023 green jobs update, we outlined our proposed definition, developed through extensive stakeholder engagement: “Employment in an activity that contributes to protecting or restoring the environment, including those that mitigate or adapt to climate change.”

Our September 2023 release, “Experimental estimates of green jobs, UK: 2023”, provided our first estimates of green jobs in the UK, with indicative estimates using three bases – industry, occupation, and firm.

We are continuing to develop the measurement of green jobs, towards increasing timeliness and accuracy, thus enhancing the evidence base on this important issue.

Greenhouse gas emissions (residence based) estimates

On 9 October 2023, we published the latest UK environment accounts, including provisional estimates of greenhouse gas emissions on a residence-basis for 2022, alongside air pollution figures.

In July 2023, we published our first experimental estimates of quarterly UK greenhouse gas emissions on a residence basis, up to Quarter 1 (January to March) 2023. We will be publishing further estimates, up to Quarter 2 (April to June) 2023, on 3 November. We use modelling techniques to provide more timely statistics alongside our annual estimates. While these estimates are different to territorial measures (emissions that occur within the UK’s borders) used to monitor UK emissions targets, produced by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, as they are residence-based, they are comparable with a range of important economic statistics, including gross domestic product (GDP).

Natural capital accounts

We produce the UK Natural Capital Accounts, which monitor the changing capacity and demand for natural resources and the benefits they provide.

Widely regarded as world-leading, these accounts are produced on a consistent basis with the System of National Accounts (SNA) used to produce Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and so help to understand the links between the environment and economic statistics. As they are produced to UN standards and guidance, they are also broadly internationally comparable.

We have continued to develop our methodology, updating the “Principles of UK natural capital accounting” in June, outlining how we interpret and apply international guidelines to the UK context.

We published the latest urban habitat accounts in September.  A summary of the latest UK natural capital accounts was also published in the Blue Book 2023 on 31 October, ahead of the full accounts being published in November. We have previously produced stand‑alone accounts for Scotland and England, and November’s release will feature breakdowns for all four UK nations for the first time.

Additionally, these natural capital accounts are an important element of our work to better understand inclusive wealth, the concept proposed in the HM Treasury-commissioned Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity.


We are also regularly using our Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) to understand business responses to environmental issues.

In the period 7 to 20 August 2023, we asked UK businesses about climate change, finding 39% to be “very” or “somewhat concerned”, 44% “not concerned” and 17% “not sure”.

In terms of actions, 7% of businesses reported monitoring climate related risks, 4% having a climate change strategy, 3% having a greenhouse gas emissions target and 1% having a target that includes the supply chain. We also found that 3% of businesses reported monitoring nature or biodiversity risks, and 2% having a nature or biodiversity strategy.

In the period 24 July to 6 August 2023, 75% of businesses reported that they had not assessed the risks of any of the specified climate change effects (water scarcity, coastal erosion, increased flooding and temperature increases).[2] Of those that had assessed these risks, 28% had not taken any action, 18% did not expect to be impacted, while 18% reported they had been unable to take action either because of costs, or the lack of information or guidance.

Our BICS release, scheduled for 16 November[3], will look at barriers to business actions and whether climate change impacts are considered in businesses investment plans.


We also continue to publish fortnightly statistics about issues of concern in Public Opinions and Social Trends.

The issue for the survey period 4 to 15 October 2023 found that, when asked about the important issues facing the UK today, the fourth most commonly reported issue was “climate change and the environment”, by 62% of adults in Great Britain.

We are planning further insights on public perceptions to the environment in the coming months. Our next update to our measures of national well-being dashboard, which includes a measure tracking pro-environmental lifestyle changes to tackle environmental issues, is on 10 November 2023.

Other relevant publications

We published “Climate-related mortality, England and Wales, 1988 to 2022” as experimental statistics in September, showing an estimated 4,507 deaths associated with the hottest days in England in 2022.

Our annual energy efficiency of housing release was also published on 1 November. We are also looking at the feasibility of linking energy performance certificate data to Census data to understand more about the households in high and low-rated energy efficient properties.

We would be happy to brief the Committee further on any aspect of our work if helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Keoghan

Deputy National Statistician for Economic, Social and Environmental Statistics

Office for National Statistics written evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the escalation violence against women and girls

Dear Ms Nokes,

I write in response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s call for evidence for their inquiry into the escalation of violence against women and girls.

As the Committee will be aware, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s National Statistical Institute and largest producer of official statistics. We aim to provide a firm evidence base for sound decisions and develop the role of official statistics in democratic debate.

In this written evidence, we have outlined the ONS’s sources for crime statistics, our most recent publications on violence against women and girls (VAWG), and our plans to address known gaps in the data currently available.

Sources of ONS crime data

Our publications and data concern crime as it is experienced by victims, or as it is recorded by police. The ONS Centre for Crime and Justice publish figures on the levels and trends of crime in England and Wales primarily based on two sets of crime statistics: The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) which is a face-to-face victimisation survey, and police recorded crime data which is sent to us from the Home Office.

ONS crime publications and data

We regularly provide insight into the latest evidence and data on VAWG. Our latest figures for the year ending March 2023 show that, in the last year:

  • 7% of women compared with 3.2% men aged 16 years and over experienced domestic abuse;
  • 2% of women compared with 0.9% of men aged 16 and over experienced sexual assault;
  • 4% of women compared with 2.4% men aged 16 and over experienced stalking.

We also produce a number of dedicated releases on a range of crime topics linked to VAWG. For example, we included some questions on the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) which asked people about their perceptions of personal safety and experiences of harassment in the last 12 months. The latest data from 2022 show that:

  • more women (27%) than men (16%) reported they had experienced at least one form of harassment in the previous 12 months;
  • women felt less safe than men in all settings after dark; 82% of women reported feeling very or fairly unsafe after dark “in a park or other open space, compared with 42% of men”.

Data from the Home Office Homicide Index for the year ending March 2019 to the year ending March 2021 also showed that 72.1% of victims of domestic homicide were female.

We also publish a number of detailed articles on domestic abuse and data tables which include figures on the prevalence of domestic abuse from the CSEW, police recorded crime and data from victim services. Our domestic abuse and the criminal justice system article[ contains data from the Ministry for Justice and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on the responses to and outcomes of domestic abuse-related cases in the criminal justice system.

Our annual homicide article and data tables include analyses of information held within the Home Office Homicide Index and contains detailed record-level information about each homicide recorded by police in England and Wales. The data tables include details on victims of domestic homicide.

We also publish a sexual offences publication and data tables which includes victimisation data from the CSEW, police recorded crime, and victim services.

Evidence and gaps

We work with a range of data suppliers, including victim services, to bring together data to provide an overall picture of victims and their experience, as well as to understand the evidence gaps. Our article “The lasting impact of violence against women and girls”, brought together VAWG data from various sources and victim testimonies to demonstrate the profound long-term effects of VAWG on survivors and people close to them.

To support the UK Government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, we published a violence against women and girls (VAWG) data landscape. The landscape is a single comprehensive list of data and evidence relating to VAWG from a range of different sources from across government, academia, and the voluntary sector. The landscape can be used to identify available data sources relating to a particular topic (e.g., perpetrators or honour-based abuse) as well as to identify the evidence gaps in the data.

We have also published a research update that provides a summary of our current and future research and publications relating to VAWG.

The ONS plans to release an update to both the VAWG data landscape and the research update in November 2023. We will share this with the Committee when it is published.

I hope this evidence is useful to the Inquiry. Please let us know if there is anything further we can provide.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Keoghan

Deputy National Statistician for Economic, Social and Environmental Statistics