Britain is far from becoming an equal society
Ruth Kelly Economic Policy Adviser
24th Jul 2012
A couple of weeks ago, John Rentoul wrote We are all in this together, after all in
the Independent, about how Britain seems to have become a more equal society recently, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
In contrast to his claims, the study he references shows that the gap between the very rich and the poorest remains stark and is set to grow. While the study shows that the incomes of the very rich dropped in 2010-11, it also finds that top incomes rose so quickly in 2009-10 that this drop merely brought the difference between very high and average incomes back to where it was in 2008-09.
While the study does show the incomes of the poorest getting a little bit closer to those in the middle, this progress is likely to be eroded as benefits are cut and, as Oxfam's recent report, The Perfect Storm, shows, the labour market becomes more precarious, and the public services and housing support - relied on by the poorest in our society - disappear.
And the inequality in our society goes beyond money and benefits. When we asked people what was important to them, in the research leading to the Oxfam Humankind Index in Scotland, people put access to safe green spaces and amenities near the top of their list. But more than 40 percent of the difference between the prosperity indexes of deprived communities and the rest of Scotland was accounted for by the lack of access to these same resources.
And this finding holds true outside Scotland as well. Not only is income inequality between the extremely rich and the poorest widening, but other equally pervasive measures of inequality are making life in this green and pleasant land hardest for those least able to cope.