Income and earnings coherence work plan

This GSS income and earnings coherence work plan was last updated on 9 February 2022 to include progress information and a timeframe for delivery.

It has been produced collaboratively by three government departments:

  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

The income and earnings landscape is complex and there are interdependencies between the initiatives set out in this work plan. In particular the initiatives to determine the user need, and explore producing a single set of income estimates.

Therefore, the work plan will be reviewed and revised over time to reflect evolving development work and updated versions will be published.

Analysis of COVID-19 impact on household finances

Initiative
Produce analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on household finances.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth)
Progress
Completed

Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain: January 2021

Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain: May 2021

Weekly household spending fell by more than £100 on average during the coronavirus pandemic

Update analysis of COVID-19 impact on household finances

Initiative
Produce updated analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on household finances.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth)
Progress
Ongoing
Time frame
An updated synthesis article will be produced in summer 2022.

Analytical plan of Cost Of Living to be developed and agreed by March 2022, but it will continue be adapted in response to government priorities.

The planned March 2022 household income publication will cover the 2020/21 time period (and the June 2022 Family Spending publication will cover the same time period).

Article on the composition of jobs and its impact on earnings growth

Initiative
Consider the feasibility of producing an article on the composition of jobs and its impact on earnings growth using monthly earnings bulletin data.

This analysis will use Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and Labour Force Survey (LFS) data.

Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Publication of small area regional household finance statistics on a single day

Initiative
Consolidate small area regional household estimates to be published on a single day, bringing small area household income and wealth statistics together with admin-based income statistics.

The first phase will involve producing the latest regional estimates of household income, followed by the fuller consolidation of regional household finance statistics.

Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth) and Michael Cole – ONS (Social Statistics Transformation, Analysis and Research)
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
Plan to publish revised survey based small area income estimates in May 2022, and alongside this plan to publish some regional wealth estimates.

Review the timeliness of the public and private sector earnings publication

Initiative
Review the timeliness of the public and private sector earnings publication and consider if it can be brought closer to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) publication date.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Review alignment of income and earnings releases across the GSS

Initiative
Review what has been done to align releases across the GSS and explore what further could be done and what the costs would be.

Note: A significant amount has already been done to align releases within departments, this is considering alignment across the GSS.

Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Determine the user need for a single household income data source

Initiative
The GSS Income and Earnings Coherence Steering Group will determine the user need for a single data source on household incomes. If this is desired, then it will provide the overarching direction, insight and leadership to enable producers to move towards a single, coherent and comprehensive, evidence base for income statistics.
Lead
John Marais – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth), Steve Ellerd-Elliot – DWP and Debra Prestwood – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Explore the feasibility of producing a single set of cross-sectional household income estimates

Initiative
Explore the feasibility of producing a single set of cross-sectional household income estimates. ONS’s cross-sectional income statistics are based on the Household Finances Survey (HFS), while DWP’s are based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS). The sample boost to the FRS provides new opportunities.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth) and Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Explore the feasibility of producing a single set of longitudinal household income estimates

Initiative
Explore the feasibility of producing a single set of longitudinal household income statistics. ONS’s longitudinal income statistics are based on the Survey of Living Conditions (SLC), while DWP’s are based on Understanding Society (USOC) data.

Note: These statistics are used to measure persistent low income.

Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth) and Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Continue integration of ONS household surveys

Initiative
Continue work to further integrate the Living Cost and Food Survey (LCF) and the Survey of Living Conditions (SLC) into the Household Finance Survey (HFS) (such as integration into a single question collection design and alignment if possible with administrative sources).
Lead
Martina Portanti – ONS (Social Survey Operations)
Progress
Work being re-scoped
Time frame
Initial re-scoping due to be completed by the end of February 2022.

Continued development of the Labour Market Survey (LMS)

Initiative
Continue to develop the LMS, which will eventually replace the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Ensure that it meets users’ needs and produce further analytical articles based on the data.

The long-term strategy for the LMS is to source earnings data from HMRC Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) and match it to LMS data. As an interim measure, we are developing earnings questions for the LMS until we are able to match at the right level.

Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022 on the progress and timeframes of the LMS development.

Reconcile differences between Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) and Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) statistics

Initiative
Working collaboratively with HMRC, reconcile differences between PAYE-RTI and AWE statistics. This would be at the aggregate level initially.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Note: a comparison of labour market data sources was published in December 2020.

Continue to build on the use of administrative data in household surveys

Initiative
Continue to build on the use of administrative data in household surveys to improve the quality and granularity of our core household statistics. This includes investigating the use of HMRC’s Pay As Your Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) data alongside DWP’s administrative sources. Understand and address the user need for continued access to microdata as the datasets become larger and more sensitive with the addition of administrative data.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth)
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022, once administrative data sources become available.

We will explore the possibility of a single publication on regional income in 2022, making best use of administrative and survey data.

Continued linking of the Family Resources Survey (FRS) and administrative data

Initiative
Continue the FRS transformation by developing approaches to integrate a range of administrative data (from DWP and HMRC) into the survey to improve data quality and timeliness. FRS transformation will help reduce under-coverage at the bottom end of the income distribution.

Note: This initiative is specifically using administrative data for survey variable replacement.

Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Improve the “completeness” of admin-based small area income statistics

Initiative
Continue to improve the “completeness” and methodology used to produce admin-based small area income statistics (both individual and household) and publish updated research and output tables for 2016. This is part of the ONS Social Statistics Admin First project.
Lead
Samantha Pendleton – ONS (Social Statistics Transformation, Analysis and Research)
Progress
Completed

Admin-based income, England and Wales: tax year ending 2016 revised results

Consider updating admin-based small area income statistics to a more recent year

Initiative
Consider the feasibility of updating the admin-based small area income statistics (both individual and household) to a more recent year. This is part of the ONS Social Statistics, Admin First project.
Lead
Samantha Pendleton – ONS (Social Statistics Transformation, Analysis and Research)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022, once administrative data sources become available.

Publish research into census-based household income

Initiative
Publish research into census-based household income using administrative data (in other words, using a census population base rather than an administrative population base). This work is part of the ONS Social Statistics Admin First project.
Lead
Samantha Pendleton – ONS (Social Statistics Transformation, Analysis and Research)
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
An update will be provided by summer 2022.

Explore the availability of alternative income data sources

Initiative
Explore and monitor the availability of alternative data sources (such as financial transactions data) which could supplement existing income and earnings data.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth)
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
We will explore the use of alternative financial data sources for use in the measurement of income, and provide an update on the feasibility of doing so in the financial year ending 2023

Review the approaches to “admin first” and share best practice

Initiative
Organise an event for GSS producers to share approaches being used to incorporate administrative data into income and earnings statistics and agree best practice.
Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
Due to complete in spring 2022.

Consider how the Household Finances Survey (HFS) could better capture those at the top and bottom of the income distribution

Initiative
Consider how the sample design of the HFS could better capture and represent those at the bottom and the top of the income distribution. This is part of wider HFS transformation work.
Lead
Martina Portanti – ONS (Social Survey Operations)
Progress
On hold
Time frame
This will be accounted for as part of the HFS replanning, which will happen after re-scoping is completed by the end of February 2022.

Investigate using HMRC Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) micro data to estimate the distribution of earnings

Initiative
Investigate the possibility of using HMRC PAYE-RTI microdata data to provide information on the distribution of earnings.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Completed

Pay distribution is published in the data tables in the earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information bulletin.

Review alignment with international best practice

Initiative
Review the alignment of income and earnings statistics with international best practice

Note: This work will take into account our future relationship with the European Union, specifically our post EU exit status.

Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Review signposting of income and earnings publications

Initiative
Review the current state of signposting in our income and earnings publications, including links to relevant publications and articles, existing GSS guidance and methodology. Also consider whether articles invite user comment and provide information on future plans. Identify opportunities for improvement and provide a publication checklist for producers.

Note: Income-based poverty statistics are in scope of this review.

Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Completed

Review Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) statistics available in ONS Customise My Data

Initiative
Review and potentially increase the range of ASHE statistics available in the ONS Customise My Data service.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Existing ASHE tables in the ONS Customise my Data service have been updated with 2021 data.

Publish more regular insights on living standards

Initiative
Publish more regular, higher frequency insights on living standards using repeatable monthly analysis from a range of surveys and administrative datasets.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An updated synthesis article will be produced in summer 2022.

Analytical plan of Cost Of Living to be developed and agreed by March 2022, but it will continue be adapted in response to government priorities.

The planned March 2022 household income publication will cover the 2020/21 time period (and the June 2022 Family Spending publication will cover the same time period).

Update the “guide to sources of data on income and earnings”

Initiative
Review and build on the “guide to sources of data on income and earnings” to ensure it references income-based poverty statistics and includes the new DWP Children in Low Income Families (CiLIF) publication.
Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
Due to complete in March 2022.

Deliver a new interactive tool for users of GSS produced income and earnings statistics

Initiative
Deliver a new interactive tool where users can explore the complex landscape of income and earnings statistics (including income-based poverty statistics) in one convenient location.

This is a medium-term solution which we anticipate will eventually be superseded by the dissemination arm of the Integrated Data Service (IDS).

Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Completed

Income and earnings statistics interactive tool

Ensure the functionality of the interactive tool is included in the dissemination arm of the Integrated Data Service (IDS)

Initiative
Work closely with the IDS to ensure that the functionality of the interactive tool is incorporated into the dissemination arm of the IDS.
Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Research the use of HMRC Self-Assessment data to improve the “completeness” of admin-based small area income statistics

Initiative
Research the use of HMRC Self-Assessment admin data to measure self-employed income and use it to improve the “completeness” of admin-based small area income statistics (both individual and household). This work is part of the ONS Social Statistics Admin First project.

Note: While this work will fill data gaps on the self-employed in the admin-based small area income statistics the time lags will remain.

Lead
Samantha Pendleton – ONS (Social Statistics Transformation, Analysis and Research)
Progress
Completed

Measuring self-employment income using administrative data: tax year ending 2016

Survey and administrative data comparisons of self-employment income, UK: tax years ending 2016 to 2018

Update and engage with users on plans to improve self-employed income data following HMRC’s “Making Tax Digital” initiative

Initiative
Update and engage with users on plans to explore the feasibility of improving self-employed income data following HMRC’s “Making Tax Digital” initiative.

Note: HMRC is increasingly moving to real time digital platforms for collection of tax liability and payment data. This is bringing benefits to HMRC and other government departments in the timeliness and coverage of data on parts of the taxpayer population (such as the employed). In time this will extend to other taxpayer populations through a programme known as “Making Tax Digital” (such as the self-employed) but it is difficult to put a precise timetable on this.

Lead
HMRC
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in summer 2022.

Establish a working group to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the Family Resources Survey (FRS) and Household Finances Survey (HFS) data quality and develop solutions

Initiative
DWP and ONS jointly establish a working group where research into the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on data collection, dataset production and analysis for the FRS and HFS datasets are shared and solutions developed.
Lead
Veronique Siegler – ONS (Survey Operations) and Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Ongoing
Time frame
Due to complete in March 2022.

Understand the impact of COVID-19 on the Family Resources Survey (FRS) data quality

Initiative
Implement adjustments into the financial year ending 2021 FRS dataset (and publications based on the FRS including Households Below Average Income (HBAI), Pensioners’ Income (PI) and benefit take-up statistics) to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on data quality.
Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
Due to complete in March 2022.

Understand the impact of COVID-19 on Household Finances Survey (HFS) data quality

Initiative
Implement adjustments into the financial year ending 2021 HFS dataset (and associated publications) to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on data quality.
Lead
Veronique Siegler – ONS (Survey Operations)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
Due to complete in March 2022.

Implement a new template to report on the quality of HMRC’s official statistics

Initiative
HMRC is adopting ONS’s Best Practice and Impact Team’s background quality report template to report on the quality of its official statistics.

Note: This is part of a wider programme of quality-related improvements, designed in response to recommendations in the Office for Statistics Regulation’s (OSR) report on HMRC’s statistics, published in April 2020. The programme of work includes: setting up a quality network to discuss developments across HMRC analytical teams, setting clearer expectations for quality assurance, building stronger links with data providers, and making greater use of data science tools and methods.

Lead
Jackie Orme – HMRC
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
Due to complete in December 2022

Review how income and earnings publications provide information on quality

Initiative
Review how income and earnings articles and publications provide information on quality and robustness of the statistics and showcase best practice for producers.
Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Investigate non-response bias in the Family Resources Survey (FRS)

Initiative
Carry out a feasibility study to investigate non-response bias in the Family Resources Survey (FRS).
Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work being scoped out
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Implement the use of Reproducible Analytical Pipelines (RAPs) in the production of ONS’s household finance statistics

Initiative
Implement the use of RAPs in the production of ONS’s household finance statistics and review production and publication times of the outputs post-implementation.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth) and Martina Portanti – ONS (Social Survey Operations)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
The financial year ending 2022 income statistics will make use of a new editing pipeline for income (currently being piloted).

Further improvements to be considered with wider Household Finances Survey (HFS) developments.

Implement the use of Reproducible Analytical Pipelines (RAPs) in the production of Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and Average Weekly Earnings (AWE)

Initiative
Implement the use of RAPs in the statistical production of ASHE and AWE and review production and publication times of the outputs post-implementation.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Review the timeliness of the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) publication

Initiative
Review the timeliness of the AWE publication now that its data collection has moved online.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in spring 2022.

Consider moving data collection for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) online

Initiative
Consider whether the data collection for the ASHE could move online. If this is possible, then review the timeliness of the ASHE publication post-implementation.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Increase Family Resources Survey (FRS) sample size

Initiative
Increase the FRS sample to 45,000 households a year on a permanent basis, starting in financial year ending 2022 with a partial boost, and a full boost from financial year ending 2023. The first annual results based on the full sample are expected in the March 2024 publication. The boost will support a range of more granular analysis (such as by ethnicity).
Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
Partial boost started October 2021.

Full boost due to start in April 2022.

The first annual results based on the fully boosted sample are expected in the March 2024 publication.

Consider increasing the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) sample size

Initiative
Consider whether there is the user need and funding to boost the ASHE sample which would enable improved regional granularity.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Work in progress
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Consider optimising the granularity of the Labour Market Survey (LMS)

Initiative
Consider whether there is scope to further optimise the granularity of the LMS.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Consider how ONS household finance surveys can better capture under-represented groups

Initiative
Consider how ONS household finance surveys can better capture under-represented groups in society, such as those no with fixed address.
Lead
Andy Banks – ONS (Crime, Income and Wealth) and Martina Portanti – ONS (Social Survey Operations)
Progress
On hold
Time frame
This will be accounted for as part of the Household Finances Survey (HFS) replanning, which will happen after re-scoping is completed by the end of February 2022.

Investigate Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) pensions questions

Initiative
Investigate ASHE pensions questions to consider coverage, clarify quality of data collected and use of outputs.
Lead
David Freeman – ONS (Labour Market and Households)
Progress
Not yet started
Time frame
An update will be provided in autumn 2022.

Actively share our coherence work with users

Initiative
Work collaboratively across the GSS to promote our coherence work through participation in regular and informal engagements, existing email groups and newsletters, social media and Stats User Net. Actively seek user views using these mechanisms and use the feedback received to further refine our work plan and planned outputs, improving the relevance and the impact of our work. We will look to widen our user base and improve our understanding of how our statistics are being used across the policy and service provision.
Lead
Nick Woodhill – ONS (Statistical Coherence and Inclusion) and production teams in ONS, DWP and HMRC
Progress
Ongoing
Time frame
We plan to raise awareness of our work plan and the income and earnings interactive tool via a planned blog and social media posts in March 2022.

DWP publish its statistics user engagement strategy

Initiative
DWP publish its statistics user engagement strategy. This document sets out a strategy for DWP Official Statistics to increase both the quantity and quality of user engagement across the department on the statistics it produces.
Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Completed

DWP statistics user engagement strategy

DWP publish its statistical work programme

Initiative
DWP publish its statistical work programme. This document brings together developments from across all DWP Official Statistics, including publication-specific and cross-departmental plans, into a single programme. This will increase visibility of DWP developments and further support user engagement.
Lead
Joanna Littlechild – DWP
Progress
Completed

DWP statistical work programme

The statistical work programme is expected to be updated regularly throughout 2022.