Socialist Worker

Rich-poor divide going back to Victorian times

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2252

The gap between the highest and lowest paid in Britain is not only growing but is set to return to Victorian levels.

A report by the High Pay Commission says that the top 0.1 percent of earners are expected to grab 14 percent of national income by 2030. They currently take 5 percent.

This would return economic inequality to levels last seen in 1900.

And in the ten years between 2010 and 2020, the average salary of FTSE 100 chief executives is expected to rise from 145 to 214 times the median full-time wage.

Their average salary today is a staggering £3.75 million.

While executive pay is set to flourish under the Tories, the previous Labour government did its part in widening inequality.

Between 1996/7 and 2007/8 the top 0.1 percent saw their average earnings rocket from £328,000 to £538,600—a 64 percent increase.

Meanwhile the lowest paid 50 percent saw their average income go from £16,000 to just £17,100. Under the Tories this trend is set to continue.


Cameron talks about everyone “sharing the pain” of the cuts.

But the injustice inherent in the system is something that many people are beginning to see through.

An ICM poll suggests that 72 percent of people think high pay makes Britain a grossly unequal place to live.

Some 73 percent say they don’t have faith in business or the government to challenge excessive pay.

And two thirds believe the pay gap is too high in their own workplace, according to a YouGov poll.

This comes at a time when inflation on goods and services increased to 4.5 percent in April—up 0.5 percent from March.

Other new statistics suggest that 300,000 children will drop below the poverty line over the next three years.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank blames this increase on chancellor George Osborne’s cuts to benefits and tax credits for the poorest.

The IFS also predicts that median incomes will see a drop of 3 percent in 2011—the biggest fall in 30 years.

Despite ministers’ claims of tackling inequality, the millionaires in the cabinet are quite happy to see this massive shift of wealth from the poor to the rich.

The scene is set for resistance to this looting by the super-wealthy.

The coalition of reverse-Robin Hoods has no interest in equality or social mobility. That’s why we have to bring it down.

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Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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