Poverty : the 5/20 Divide

 18 March 2014

If you thought that there wasn’t a statistic that could match the emotional impact of the slogan “We are the 99 per cent” then there may be one that has just emerged

We are all familiar with the cry of “We are the 99 per cent “ which became the rallying call of the Occupy Movement that reflects the anger at the extreme concentration of wealth held by the richest 1 per cent in the US.

But this week , Oxfam have revealed that just 5 billionaire families in the UK own more than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

There is a chasm between the fortunes of a few and the misery of millions.

Poverty is expensive for the wider society.

While the handful of wealthy at the top own a combined £28 billion, dealing with the personal and social consequences of the gap between the rich and the rest costs the state and  individuals, £39 billion a year, according to the Equality Trust.

It says :

“As the rich have got richer, the rest have been left behind.

The consequences of our unusually high levels of inequality are far -reaching.

More unequal societies do worse on a range of social measures from mental health to life expectancy to crime.

Of the developed OECD countries, the UK is ranked17th out of 23rd. in life expectancy, 19th out of 22 on obesity”

 The Equality Trust breaks down the cost with over £37 billion a year through shorter life expectancy and poorer mental health and the remainder through higher levels of imprisonment and murders.

And the Trust reminds us :

“Many of the costs associated with inequality remain incalculable. For example, how does one value the higher level of community cohesion, trust, and social mobility associated with less unequal countries? “

 The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that there are now 300,000 more children living in poverty in the UK than when the Tories came to government in 2010.

But back in 2009, the then Leader of the Opposition and Tory Party leader said that the “ Tories are the best party to tackle poverty”.

We have seen since 2010, the return of the spirit of Thatcherism to deal with inequality  - a withdrawal of government intervention  and its role being taken over by the voluntary sector, itself hard-pressed for assistance from government. 

This 5/20 divide, the divide between the 5 families and the 20 per cent of the population is occurring as two figures are rising – the income of those at the top of society and the numbers who are using foodbanks.

 It is no wonder that inequality is now high on the political agenda.


Links :

The Equality Trust - The Cost of Inequality

Oxfam : A Tale of Two Britains


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