Socialist Worker

Who gets what in Britain today

Issue No. 1744

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.

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News
Sat 21 Apr 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1744
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