LONDON: A detailed and startling analysis of how unequal Britain has become offers a snapshot of an increasingly divided nation where the richest 10 per cent of the population are more than 100 times wealthier than the poorest 10 per cent of society.
The report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK, scrutinises the degree to which the country has become more unequal over the past 30 years. Much of it will make uncomfortable reading for the Labour government, although the paper indicates that considerable responsibility lies with the Tories, who presided over the dramatic divisions of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Researchers analyse inequality according to a number of measures; one indicates that by 2007-8 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since soon after the second world war.
The new findings show that the household wealth of the top 10 per cent of the population stands at GBP853,000 and more — over 100 times higher than the wealth of the poorest
10 per cent, which is GBP8,800 or below (a sum including cars and other possessions).
When the highest-paid workers, such as bankers and chief executives, are put into the equation, the division in wealth is even more stark, with individuals in the top 1 per cent of the population each possessing total household wealth of GBP2.6 million or more.
Commissioned by Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, the National Equality Panel has been working on the 460-page document for 16 months, led by Prof John Hills, of the London School of Economics.
The report is more ambitious in scope than any other state-of-the-nation wealth assessment project ever undertaken.
It concludes that the government has failed to plug the gulf that existed between the poorest and richest in society in the 1980s. “Over the most recent decade, earnings inequality has narrowed a little and income inequality has stabilised on some measures, but the large inequality growth of the 1980s has not been reversed,” it states.
Inequality in earnings and income is high in Britain compared with other industrialised countries, the report states.
A central theme of the report is the profound, lifelong negative impact that being born poor, and into a disadvantaged social class, has on a child.
These inequalities inevitably accumulate over the life cycle, the report concludes.