Income and earnings harmonisation guidance

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:1 August 2019
Owner:GSS Harmonisation Team
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation standards and guidance


Income and earnings are topics of great importance to people across the country. Earnings refers to money earned from employment, whereas income is total money received, including from earnings, benefits, pensions, and other sources.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and a number of government departments are responsible for collecting data and publishing analysis on the different stages of earnings and income, using both administrative and survey data. However, the statistics produced can be complex and hard to understand.

A review by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) examined the coherence and accessibility of official statistics on income and earnings, and made a number of recommendations. As part of the response to these recommendations, the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonisation team is working with the producers of statistics on earnings and income to improve their coherence and accessibility.

As of summer 2019, a number of projects are underway. These include developing an income and earnings glossary, seeking feedback on publications to make them more coherent and publishing answers to common user questions. This page will be updated with developments as work progresses. The information on this page is designed to help users understand the different statistics on earnings and income, and where they can go to find more information.

If you use or produce statistics about income and earnings, or are interested in comparing them, please get in touch: or


OSR identified 15 different statistical publications that report on different aspects of income and earnings for UK households and these cover a range of topics and breakdowns. The guidance section provides articles which help users understand the different data sources and outputs that feed into the analysis of income and earnings, and provide answers to some common user questions.

Summary of statistics on income and earnings

As well as survey-based statistics, increasing numbers of publications are using administrative data. HMRC’s Pay as you Earn official statistics in development are an example of this.

Please note that some of this information has been taken from the 2015 OSR review of the coherence and accessibility of official statistics on income and earnings.

Official StatisticsWhat they measureProducer
Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) ASHE collects information on earnings and hours worked for a pay period in April each year, with the main publication focussing on full-time employees. It provides information about the levels and distribution of hours and earnings by gender and full/part-time working. Breakdowns by region, occupation, industry and age groups are provided for gross weekly pay, weekly pay excluding overtime, basic pay including other pay, overtime pay, gross hourly pay, hourly pay excluding overtime, gross annual pay, annual incentive pay, total paid hours, basic paid hours and paid overtime hours. It does not include information about self-employment.Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Average Weekly Earnings (AWE)AWE is a measure of mean and is calculated as the ratio of estimated total pay for the whole economy, divided by the total number of employees. It should be noted that the median is the preferred measure for the other outputs.

AWE is used to produce figures for the economy as a whole and by sector and industry. AWE is a key economic indicator and the Bank of England and HM Treasury use it to measure inflationary pressure from the labour market. It is based on the Monthly Wages and Salary Survey and is used as a measure of wage growth, for example in pay negotiations.
Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Labour Force Survey (LFS)The LFS collects information on a range of individual characteristics as well as data on economic activity and inactivity, aspects of work, job-searches, education, and training.

This includes weekly and hourly gross earnings and take home pay. It has the largest sample of any UK survey and is intended to be representative of the whole UK population.
Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Family Resources Survey (FRS)The FRS collects information on the incomes and circumstances of UK households and is the source for Households Below Average Income and Pensioner's Incomes.

DWP analysts use this survey to model and assess the impact and cost of policy changes and to monitor them once implemented; as such it covers a wide range of areas relevant to DWP. This includes income and benefit data, housing costs, caring, disability, and pensions.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Households Below Average Income (HBAI)HBAI focuses on disposable income adjusted for household size and composition. It provides information about household income, income poverty, and income inequality in the UK, and is used to monitor performance against poverty related targets. It provides UK annual estimates on the number and percentage of people living in low income households. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Pensioners’ Incomes (PI) SeriesThe PI is derived from the Family Resource Survey and contains estimates of the levels and trends of pensioners’ incomes broken down by different groups and income sources. For example, breakdowns include single pensioners and pensioner couples, income components such as benefits and pension, and analysis by region and ethnic group. The series is used to inform government policy, as well as related decisions on programmes and projects . Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Living Cost and Food Survey (LCF)The LCF is a continuous annual survey which collects detailed information on household spending patterns. This is then used to produce summary estimates of UK household expenditures. Results are published as Family Spending (ONS) and Family Food (the Departments for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, DEFRA). The survey defines the ‘basket of goods’ used in the Retail Price Index and Consumer Price Index.Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income (ETB)ETB shows the way taxes and benefits redistribute income between various groups of households in the UK. It provides a detailed breakdown of household income, including estimates of taxes and benefits. It is based on data from the Living Cost and Food survey (LCF) as well as administrative sources. Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS)The WAS aims to address gaps identified in data about the economic well-being of households by producing estimates of total household income alongside those for household wealth.

WAS comprises total household income from four constituent parts: earned income from employment (including both employees and the self-employed); income from state support (including benefits, tax credits and state pensions); income from private pensions (including occupational and personal pensions) and other income (such as income from investments and rent from property).
Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Survey of Personal Incomes (SPI)The SPI samples the records of individuals who could be liable to pay UK tax. The SPI is primarily compiled to provide an evidence base for costing proposed changes to tax rates, personal allowances and other tax reliefs. It is an administrative dataset taken from HMRC systems.HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC)
Benefits dataHMRC publishes statistics on Child and Working Tax Credits including the number of families who receive the credits and details of family composition and whether they are in work. DWP publish statistics covering the main benefits on a monthly and quarterly basis; these are based on administrative data. As well as the summaries published, the Stat-Xplore tool (a guided way to explore DWP benefit statistics) allows users to explore the data. HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Small Area Income EstimatesProvides region-level average household income for England and Wales, including wage and salary, pensions and benefits, and self-employment. Office for National Statistics (ONS)
UK National AccountsNational Accounts measures relevant to income and earnings include compensation of employees, gross disposable household income and real disposable household income. Self employment income is included in some measures, unlike in many other income and earnings statistics.Office for National Statistics (ONS)
EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC)All EU Member States are required to implement EU-SILC, which is based on the idea of a common framework as opposed to a common survey. It provides data on structural indicators of social cohesion (the at-risk-of-poverty rate, income share ratio and the gender pay gap), social inclusion and pensions in Europe.Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Office for National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of Eurostat
Pension TrendsA compendium of existing statistics on pensions aimed at a wide audience. It includes 14 topic-based chapters which are published monthly on a rolling basis and include themes such as ‘pension contributions’ and ‘life expectancy and healthy ageing’.Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Earnings and employment statistics from Pay as you Earn Real Time InformationExperimental statistics providing quarterly estimates of number receiving pay and the amount of pay received. This is produced using administrative data. The Experimental Statistics label highlights to users that HMRC are still working on further developing the methodologies used in producing these statistics.HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC)


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