A YouGov survey commissioned by The Times has found that almost a third of middle-class families would be unable to pay an unexpected bill of £500 without borrowing.
The study found that 31% of ABC1 workers – which includes professionals and junior managers – would have to borrow to pay a bill of £500, while for manual workers and the unemployed the percentage was 46%.
On average, 38% of people across all social classes would have to borrow money to pay the same amount.
YouGov surveyed 1,648 adults across the UK on 16 and 17 May. It found that the young were particularly short of savings, with almost half of 18-24 year olds unable to find £500 without borrowing, compared to 23% of those aged 65 and over.
Some 14% of those questioned could not even pay a bill of just £100 without borrowing, including around 10% of the ABC1 class.
The survey also found that women were less likely to have spare savings than men.
In April the Bank of England released figures showing that consumer credit was growing at its fastest rate since 2005, raising fears borrowers may struggle with any future rise in interest rates.