Social Justice

Gap between rich and poor is 'making a mockery of democracy'

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has launched a five-year review of the inequality between the UK's haves and have-nots

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling for a change.

The UK could be heading for a gap between rich and poor that is similar to the USA, warns the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) as it launches a five-year review of inequality.

Only the United States, out of all the major economies, has wider income inequality than the UK and has seen average life expectancy fall for the last three years.

Stagnant wages and evidence of ‘deaths of despair’ – what the IFS terms as deaths from suicide and drug and alcohol abuse – in the UK have shown signs of rising.

That is why the IFS has launched the review, chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Angus Deaton, to analyse inequalities in income, wealth, health, social mobility, political participation and more as well as the reasons behind them and how to tackle them.

“I think that people getting rich is a good thing, especially when it brings prosperity to others,” said Sir Deaton. “But the other kind of getting rich, ‘taking’ rather than ‘making’, rent-seeking rather than creating, enriching the few at the expense of the many, taking the free out of free markets, is making a mockery of democracy. In that world, inequality and misery are intimate companions.”

To mark the announcement of the review, IFS researchers Robert Joyce and Xiaowei Xu published their own report on the state of inequality in the UK.

The pair found that inequality in total net household income has remained similar to levels seen in the Eighties while household earnings have become more unequal.

On the health front, deaths from suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol-related liver disease have been rising among middle-aged people in England while a small rise in mortality for the same age group has bucked the trend of the last few decades.

The family make-up has changed among lower-income families – one in six children in the UK are born to single-parent families with a heavy concentration of them to lower earners.

There has also been a lack of earnings progression for mothers, particularly those who work part-time.

And the report also highlighted stark geographical inequalities – citing a 66 per cent difference in the average weekly earnings in London compared to the north-east of England.

Paul Johnson, director of IFS, added: “I can’t think of anything more important than understanding what drives the inequalities we see today and working out what we might do to influence them.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Energy bills are set to fall but UK families have already lost £72bn to 'staggering' prices
energy bills
Energy bills

Energy bills are set to fall but UK families have already lost £72bn to 'staggering' prices

Abuse survivor tried to take her own life after years-long battle with DWP over disability benefits
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
Department for Work and Pensions

Abuse survivor tried to take her own life after years-long battle with DWP over disability benefits

Poverty costs the UK billions each year. Politicians must commit to ending it this general election
Trussell Trust food banks
General election 2024

Poverty costs the UK billions each year. Politicians must commit to ending it this general election

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know