Inequality Must Be Tackled Now

The wealthiest 1% of people now own almost half of all global wealth, according to a report by Credit Suisse published earlier this week.

As eye-watering as this figure is, the report contained another less discussed statistic that should be of concern to us in the UK. It found that the UK was the only country in the G7 to have recorded rising wealth inequality in the 21st century. All others had seen it stagnate or slightly reverse, even the US.

The reality is that inequality is fast becoming a badge of shame for the UK. Our own analysis of the Sunday Times Rich List earlier in the year found that the richest 1000 people have more wealth than the poorest 40% of households, and saw their wealth increase by £40.1bn last year, or £1,272 a second.

This isn’t just a collection of large numbers. A figure of £40.1bn could pay the energy bill of all 26.4 million UK households for over a year, or pay the grocery bill for all of the UK’s users of food banks for 14 years.

Of course wealth inequality is only part of the problem. A report yesterday by the New Economics Foundation suggested that the poorest 10% of the population have actually suffered a 15% decline in their income, in a single year! The richest 10% have meanwhile seen their earnings rise by 3.9%. So it’s little wonder we have growing numbers of people visiting food banks and desperately struggling to afford the absolute basics.

In recent weeks we discussed the positive development of politicians now frequently discussing inequality. However the truth is that no party’s recent record on income or wealth inequality is anything to shout about. Politicians have increasingly looked to use incidental inequality reduction as a feather in their caps, a way to demonstrate their progressive credentials. But we need them to actually commit to its reduction, and we need them to support policies that achieve this. That doesn’t mean the hopelessly regressive taxation proposals many have put forward. It means a Living Wage, a proper industrial strategy to create decent jobs, reinstatement of the educational maintenance allowance and the 50p top rate of income tax, a progressive property tax– and a commitment that the net effect of party’s manifesto policies will be to reduce inequality.

John Hood, Media and Communications Manager.

This blog is part of Blog Action Day which can be followed on Twitter at #BDA14