Is The UK One Of The Most Unequal Countries In The World?
Just how unequal is the UK? And how can we change things for the better?
The richest 1% of the UK population owns more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth, according to a new report just released by Oxfam.
Shocking right? Naturally this news has made a few memes make a big comeback…
What Oxfam’s analysis shows is pretty alarming, but probably not surprising to a lot of the people who have to live in and experience our society’s inequality day in, day out.
So just how unequal is the UK? And how can we change things for the better?
Is Britain really one of the most unequal countries in the developed world?
Well, according to the charity’s analysis, about 634,000 Britons were worth 20 times as much as the poorest 13 million people. Think about that for a second.
Oxfam claims that this makes Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world and even contributed to the vote for Brexit.
Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam's UK Programme, said: "Inequality is a massive barrier to tackling poverty and has created an economy that clearly isn't working for everyone.
“While executive pay soars, one in five people live below the poverty line and struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table."
The debate about inequality has grown over the last few years in the UK and around the world, with the Occupy movement and the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders some of the most visible in the media. But even large organisations like the International Monetary Fund have started to worry about the effects of inequality on economic growth.
Wait, how did this contribute to Brexit?
Oxfam have said that the referendum brought divisions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ to a head, with many people – those who may have been disillusioned with the political process - voting for change in the hope that it would improve their economic position.
This idea seems to hold up, with The Spectator reporting that 77 per cent of local authorities in which lots of people earn a low wage (defined as less than £23,000) voted Leave, compared with only 35 per cent of areas with more decent pay packets.
So how can we actually change things for the better?
Campaigners and researchers have discussed ways of tackling inequality for years, but things have been slow to change.
Oxfam had some suggestions on what could be done, with Ms Orr arguing that the government should aim to end unscrupulous practices. "That means closing wage gaps, incentivising investment in companies' staff and making sure they pay their fair share of taxes," she said.
As reported by BBC News, Oxfam welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May's recognition of the need to reform corporate culture and proposed a series of measures for the government to look into.
Some of these ideas include giving companies incentives to improve workers’ skills, adopting pay ratios of 20:1 so that the best-paid person at a company can earn no more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker, and tackling corporate tax avoidance and ending UK-linked tax havens.
We’re yet to see whether the government will be able to get these done, or what impact they would have if they did manage it. But this looks like an issue that is only going to become more important.
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