Pay, wages, remuneration – call it what you like, but the cost of living is back in the news.

This week we've seen mixed research as to whether workers' wages are rising alongside the UK's economy.

According to research from professional services firm Towers Watson, net pay growth will hit 0.4% throughout the year – the highest level for two years.

Towers Watson said despite UK companies suggesting they will reduce pay rises from 3% last year to 2.5% this year across all professional employee levels, Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation is now expected to average 2.1% over the course of 2014.

But a separate study from jobs site, the average advertised salary was £31,818 ($53,597, €38,645) in March 2014 – 0.6% lower than in February, and 5.3% lower than March 2013.

Factor in inflation, and average salaries have fallen by £2,358 in real terms over the same period.

These figures have political ramifications. Ed Miliband's Labour Party is continuing to attack the government over the so-called "cost of living crisis".

But the Tories and Lib Dems have countered the Labour Party leader's argument by pointing to the positive wage and economy data.

Interestingly, at this week's PMQs Miliband failed to mention the fact that the ONS revealed that around 1.4m UK workers were on zero-hours contracts in early 2014.

Instead, Miliband decided to attack David Cameron over the ever controversial privatisation of the Queen's Head – the Royal Mail.

In the background of the "cost of living" debate, the government has rolled out its Help to Work scheme.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the scheme is designed to help the long-term unemployed back to work.

But the initiative has come under fire from some campaigners because some out-of-work benefit recipients may have to complete a community work placement for up to six months in order to build up their CVs and skills.

Whatever your take, the UK's labour market looks distantly different to its previous incarnation before the financial crisis – there are more flexible contracts and stronger JSA rules.

Who knows how this will affect the next general election, which is now only a year away.