Antibacterial wipes, sports bras and a less formal alternative to men’s suits will contribute to the UK’s official inflation measure for the first time, reflecting changes introduced by the pandemic ahead of a crisis in the cost of the life.
In its annual update, the Office for National Statistics on Monday added 19 products to the more than 700 items in its virtual “basket” used to calculate inflation, and removed 15.
In recognition of more time for exercise and hobbies, he also added craft kits and pet accessories. The rise of working from home and the closure of department stores that sold full three-piece suits meant that formal menswear was replaced by a jacket or blazer.
The changes are part of wide-ranging shifts in the way the ONS measures price changes as the UK grapples with a cost of living crisis which the Bank of England says is set to drive up inflation to around 7% by April.
It will also increase the number of prizes it collects by taking information directly from checkouts and offer more personalized breakdowns of the effects of inflation.
ONS head of economics Sam Beckett said the announcement was part of a ‘long-term transformation’ to keep the UK’s inflation measurement ‘as accurate and relevant as possible “.
UK consumer goods prices rose 5.5% year-on-year in January.
However, this headline figure hides potentially larger jumps in the prices of some products – an issue the ONS pledged to recognize earlier this year after food writer Jack Monroe drew attention to the issue .
He confirmed on Monday that he would introduce a personal inflation calculator, which individuals can use to see the impact of inflation on their own spending, in recognition of the uneven rise in prices between different products and groups.
Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said inflation appeared to be the “defining economic feature of 2022”. He said the personalized calculator would help families and policymakers better understand how different groups were affected by price pressures.
“While inflation is currently widespread, our own research suggests it could be higher for lower-income households by the fall if food price inflation rises,” he said.
Alfie Stirling, research director at the New Economics Foundation, warned that while the changes were welcome, they risked being “overtaken by real events”.
An NEF study published on Monday found that 34% of people in the UK would not be able to afford a ‘socially acceptable’ standard of living by April, with the average annual shortfall being £8,600.
A separate report by the Resolution Foundation found that disproportionate increases in food and energy costs could mean inflation in the poorest households could top 10% by October, as these families spend more large proportion of their income for food and heating.
Stirling called for a package of reforms ensuring means-tested benefits rise in line with inflation to ensure the incomes of the poorest people follow prices.
Other items added to the ONS inflation basket included meatless sausages and canned pulses, reflecting the growth of vegetarianism and veganism.
Charcoal, which will be banned for domestic use next year as part of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change, was one of the products removed from the basket, along with a single donut, which was discarded because working from home has forced a move away from individual purchase of baked goods.