The real wealth divide
Who gets what in Britain today
IF YOUR only sources of information about Britain were the financial supplements of the newspapers then you could be forgiven for thinking that every worker was on at least 30,000 a year.
The articles about money give the impression that the main problem most of us face is where to stash our spare cash, which unit trust to choose, or which private pension company to sign up with.
Most politicians give the impression that there is a small group of people on very low wages but that most are on good money. The reality is different. Most people in work are just about earning enough to get by-and sometimes not even that.
One of the issues that should dominate the next election campaign is that while the number of millionaires has doubled under New Labour, most people are still on low wages. The latest survey of pre-tax earnings in Britain shows that:
- 23 percent of all full time adult wage and salary earners get less than 250 a week (13,000 a year).
- 50 percent get less than 350 a week (18,200 a year).
- 87 percent get less than 575 a week (30,000 a year).
These figures cover manual and non-manual workers, INCLUDE overtime and bonuses, and EXCLUDE part timers and workers too young to get adult rates.
If you include part-timers and young people, and look just at people's basic pay, then at least 93 percent of people get less than 30,000 a year. The Socialist Alliance stands for a minimum wage of 7.39 an hour, the European Decency Threshold. This would mean a minimum wage of 288 for a 39-hour week.
ONE IN six car assembly workers get less than 250 a week, almost half of them get less than 350 a week, and four fifths get less than 460 a week, even if you include overtime
Beware of the average
AVERAGE FIGURES can be very deceptive. The average household income before tax is 24,250 a year. But a closer look at the figures show that this is distorted by a small group of very rich people. In fact, three quarters of all households have an income lower than the average.
At every level, even relatively well paid ones, average figures mask the reality. In every area of work there is a big group of people working 39 hours a week for not a great deal more than the minimum wage (4.10 an hour from October this year).
- In primary education average earnings are 20,651 a year (397 a week). But a fifth of full time workers in this sector get less than 250 a week.
- In social work, average earnings are 17,497 a year (336.48). But almost a third of full time workers in this sector get less than 250 a week, and one in eight get less than 190.
The only exception to this general rule is the section of the statistics which deals with managers.
- "Specialist managers" have an average pay of 818 a week. Less than one in ten get less than 350 a week.
- Senior grades in the police (inspector and above) have an average pay of 840 a week. Not a single one gets less than 460 a week, and one in ten grab 1,000 a week.
Race and sex gap
AT EVERY level of wages women earn significantly less than men, 25 years since the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts became law. A TUC survey at the start of this year reported:
- Full time women employees earn 81 pence for every 1 earned by full time male employees.
- Part time women employees earn 60 pence for every 1 earned by full time male employees.
Racism also affects income distribution.
- People from African, Caribbean, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are twice as likely to be in the fifth of the population which receives the lowest incomes, and half as likely to be in the richest fifth.
ONE IN five construction workers get less than 250 a week, two thirds of them get less than 350 a week and almost nine in ten get less than 460 a week
The super-rich elite
ALL INCOME statistics are distorted by very few people who grasp incomes every year which are far more than most people would earn in 1,000 years. Last year's top rip-off merchants included:
- Bernie Ecclestone, Grand Prix chief and the man who famously donated 1 million to New Labour. Total income in 2000-617 million.
- John Duffield, financial fund manager. Total income in 2000-175 million.
- Peter Harrison, computer company boss. Total income in 2000-177 million.
- Viscount Rothemere, head of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. Total income in 2000-71 million.
- Gavyn Davies, chief international economist at Goldman Sachs and close friend of Chancellor Gordon Brown. Total income in 2000-24 million.