Is it getting better? Inflation and Archaeology Wages II

Posted on October 16, 2012


A few days ago, I posted the first half of a paper I was writing about inflation and archaeology wages in the UK. This is the second half to that work in progress:

Some decades have been kinder to an archaeologists purchasing power than others. Those archaeologists that started in the 1990s and early 2000s have made significant gains in pay. While those who have started archaeology in more recent years have seen inflation, severely in some cases, hurt their purchasing power. This of course assumes that someone does not move up the ladder of job opportunities for higher pay. These numbers are also based on either the use of an average UK family or a general set of goods that one may or may not buy. It would probably be safe to say that most field archaeologists do not live like or use the same amount of goods and services as the average British family. Here is a different look at inflation based on only a few select goods and services:

Figure 1: Look at RPI inflation for a selection of goods.

Figure 2: Look at CPI inflation for a selection of goods.

When looking at these individual goods and services and comparing them against wages we see a very different picture:

  1994 2005
RPI rent 12% 0%
RPI Tea 21% -30%
RPI Alcohol 14% -6%
RPI Food 18% -15%
RPI Clothing and Footwear 55% 9%
RPI Purchase of motor vehicles 60% 22%
RPI Housing and household expenditure 4% -2%
RPI Fares and other travel costs -4% -17%
CPI Actual rents for housing 21% 1%
CPI Alcohol 36% -2%
CPI Food 22% -15%
CPI Transport 7% -12%
CPI Clothing and Footwear 75% 31%
CPI New Car 41% 4%
CPI housing, water and fuels 3% -17%

Table 3: Wages against inflation for individual goods and services for excavators for those that started in 1994 and 2005. Negative numbers indicate how much less of that good or service excavator wages buy. Positive numbers indicate how much more of that good or service excavator wages buy.

Again, we see the trend that those who started out in the 1990s doing better than recent entrants into excavator positions. More importantly it shows the great variability between different goods and services. Overall, wages have been good compared to clothing and footwear but poor against food and alcohol. This raises the question, what do field archaeologists spend their wages on? The current inflation figures are based on the average British family but that is probably not reflective of the spending habits of archaeologists. If would also be safe to say that spending habits will differ from position to position. It would be highly unlikely that a digger would be concern with payments on a house, but a project manager who must spend most of their time at the home office, or home if that is their office, would be concerned with a permanent place to stay. These are generalizations but they do highlight the fact that there is bound to be difference between positions and even within those positions if those generalizations do not hold true for everyone.

Instead of trying to create a specific index of inflation for archaeologists based on some sort of weighting of goods and services used by various different archaeologists, several tools were created to allow anyone create a custom index based on their individual circumstances. The primary tool is a custom spreadsheet that allows the user to create custom inflation calculations for their circumstances. It also allows the comparison between the average wages of archaeologists and these custom inflation rates. The full spreadsheet, and instructions on how to use it can be downloaded from