Realsociology

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Archive for the 'Wealth and Income Inequality' Category

Work in Low Pay, No Pay Britain

Posted by Realsociology on 30th October 2013

In this latest Thinking Allowed podcast on ‘Low pay, no pay’ Britain Laurie Taylor talks to the sociologist, Tracy Shildrick, about her prize winning study of individuals and families who are living in or near poverty. The research was conducted in Teesside, North East England, and focuses on the men and women who’ve fallen out of old working class communities and must now cope with drastically reduced opportunities for standard employment. To my mind, this is a good in-dept illustration of what life is really like for a section of the Precariat (although Shildrick would be more cautious).

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The research is based on the book (published in 2012) – Poverty and insecurity Life in low-pay, no-pay Britain by Tracy Shildrick

This book explores how men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced and where people exist without predictability or security in their lives, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many.

Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment.

Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women this research challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain.

Below is a summary of the main points of the podcast

  • The low-pay no-pay cycle is much more common than long-term unemployment. Most people intreviewed were committed to work, even though the jobs they did were not ‘comfortable’ jobs. This was one of their most consistent findings…. which in part explains why these people go back time and time again. This of course is the opposite to what we here in the media about people ‘languishing on benefits’.
  • It is not a guarantee that taking up employment will mean an individual is going to better off than on benefits. Most people were ashamed at having to claim benefits.
  • Jobs typically did not last long enough to take workers away from poverty.
  • In work-poverty is – 66% of poverty live in households were at least one person is in-work.
  • The types of work include factory jobs, bars, customer service, often run through agencies.
  • For the people interviewed these type of jobs are not stepping stones to something better – they get one foot on the rung of the ladder, get knocked off, and have to climb back on again.
  • Shildrick is not convinced that the term ‘Precariat’ is accurate enough to describe adequately the experience of all people who are sometimes put into this category. She argues that the experiences of the people she interviewed are different to those of a graduate working for a few years in similar jobs (although the people she interviewed do seem to fit into the definition of the Precariat used by the GBCS below)
  • In response to the idea that better training is the solution to helping people in these jobs, Shildrick suggests we need to look at the bigger picture – society needs these jobs – we need to think ahout how to reward them more appropriately.

Shildrick suggests that it is ultimately employers who have the power to help people out of this cycle. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be of employers being increasingly inflexible while demanding that employees be more flexible.

Links -

1. This seems to be a good in-dept illustration of what life is really like for a section of the Precariat

2. Also a nice illustration of the effects of living in liquid-modernity – The reality is actually bleaker for them than the above research might suggest – As Zygmunt Bauman reminds us (in Liquid Modernity)- ‘The bottom category are the easeist to replace, and  now they are disposabe and so that there is no point in entering into long term commitments with their work colleagues…..  this is a natural response to a flexibilised labour market. This leads to a decline in moral, as those who are left after one round of downsizing wait for the next blow of the axe.

Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf
Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf
Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf

Posted in Book reviews, summaries and excerpts, Capitalism, Changing Britain, Neoliberalism, social class, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

The World Wealth Report 2013

Posted by Realsociology on 2nd October 2013

 

The World Wealth Report reports on trends in the wealth of HNWIs – Or High Net Wealth Individuals. These are individuals with $1million or more in investable assets. You have to sign up to be able to download the report, but its free. (Thankyee for the crust kind sirs, doffs cap…) 

Between 2011-12, the richest 12 million people in the world gained an extra 4.2 trillion dollars of wealth between them – Their total wealth is now $46.2 billion, up from $42 billion in 2011. Thats a tidy $350 000 each extra on average, and according to the predictions below that trend is set to continue…

wealth1

Of course it gets bleaker… the averages above disguise the fact that the richest Ultra High Net Wealth Individuals increased their overal wealth more than the mere ‘millionnaires next door’… the proportional increases may well be the same, but of course a 10% gain on $50 million means you gain more than if you’d gained 10% on a mere $1 million.

wealth4

 

And bleaker… The richest 12 million may have got 10% richer on average, but this is on the back of a mere 2.2% GDP growth rate, so their wealth is growing nearly five times the rate of real global wealth (although somehow I’m sure that’s not a fair comparison?!)

wealth5

 

And even bleaker… according to the World Bank’s GNI data (not the same as wealth I know) -  GNI only increased from around 70 to 71.4 trillion dollars, which is less than 1%, so most of this wealth increse doesn’t seem to be rooted in the production of tangible goods and services.

No doubt there are different ways of interpreting what this data actually means, comments welcome!

 

In case you prefer a word-based summary – the 2013 report notes the following…

  • Between 2011 to 2012 The world’s HNWI population increased by 9.2% to reach 12.0 million, after remaining flat in 2011.
  • In the same period, The aggregate investable wealth increased 10.0% to US$46.2 trillion, after declining slightly in 2011.
  • ƒHNWI wealth in 2012 represented a new level of strength, going well past the historical high of US$42.7 trillion set in 2010.
  • Relatively stronger growth rates in higher wealth bands4 (US$5 million or more) led the growth of overall investable wealth globally.
  • All of this is despite a decline in the rate of world GDP growth to 2.2% last year.

 

 

Posted in Global Development, Globalisation, Infographics, Neoliberalism, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Social Class Inequality Visualisations

Posted by Realsociology on 1st October 2013

I had my classes exploring one of my ‘favourite’ topics today – The extent of and explanations for inequalities in life chances by social class, gender and ethnicity – Here a few visual updates and links which highlight the extent of class inequality in the UK today…

1. In Education… 3 year olds from the richest fifth of households are twice as likely to be ‘school ready’ than 3 year olds from the poorest fifth of households

education

2, by health – This is a nice, if dated article which reminds us that Based on 2007-2009 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.6 years and a woman aged 65 another 20.2 years. This graphic demonstrates that men and women from routine manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die before the age of 64 than those from professional backgrounds(my title is clearer than that in the picture!)

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3. The chances of being a victim of violent crime (available from the ONS and the Home Office Annual crime stats reports)

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4. Births outside of wedlock (not that I think the decline in marriage is a bad thing!, unlike the author of the post where I got the info!

The chart below shows the proportion of kids who are born outside marriage by social class in Britain. Its quite a short period of time, but you get the general idea. At the top, things haven’t changed much. At the bottom, having children inside marriage is not the norm, and increasingly rare.

121109-coming-apart

 

More Sources to follow…

 

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Education, Infographics, social class, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Inequality updates – UK Focus

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd September 2013

While the recent recession and ‘recovery’ have meant economic hardship and uncertainty for the majority, the VERY rich have got relatively richer.

Before looking at things sociologically (looking at the bigger picture) I’d just llike to say THANKS AGAIN TO THE BBC* for another excellent example of narrow-reporting which fosters false consciousness – This item reminds us that the levels of income inequality have fallen – if we compare the top fifth with the bottom fith of households over the last year.

HOWEVER…. If we look at how the incomes of the top one percent and top ten percent compare to other slices of the population further down the social-class spectrum, a picture of INCREASING INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE UK EMERGES

This article from The Guardian summarises the situation -

The super-rich – the top 1% of earners – now pocket 10p in every pound of income paid in Britain, while the poorest half of the population take home only 18p of every pound between them, according to a report published this week by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which reveals the widening gap between those at the very top and the rest of society.

Inequality has grown sharply over the past 15 years, according to Resolution’s analysis: the top 1% of earners have seen their slice of the pie increase from 7% in the mid-1990s to 10% today, while the bottom half have seen their share drop from 19% to 18%.

This post from the Guerilla Policy Network offers a nice summary of the lates UN Human Development Report which highlights the following facts -

  • The UK’s poorest 40% share in just 14.6% of the national wealth – the only country performing worse was Russia (96)
  • The richest 20% have incomes more than ten times as high as the bottom 20%, this is the same as Nigeria, and worse than Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and twice as bad as Sri Lanka and Ethiopia (96)
  • As inequality in the UK has risen, intergenerational mobility (children ‘doing better’ than their parents) has also declined (2013 p36)
  • The majority of working people have had little or no wage increases in recent decades, while the top earners have seen substantial increases (2013 p22)

For those of you who prefer Infographics to illustrate inequality, here is one from the equality trust (love their work – ‘gis a job!)

income-inequality-uk-2

*(Seriously, thankyou, without you, BBC, teaching concepts such as ideological control, agenda setting, and false consciousness is just so easy.)

Posted in Agenda Setting, Changing Britain, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Putting DRC Poverty in Context

Posted by Realsociology on 8th December 2012

DRC – Resource Rich but ‘dirt poor’

The GDP of The Democratic Republic of Congo is $15 billion. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the total value of goods and services produced within a country in one year, and so is roughly equivalent to the amount of money that will be spent in total on everything by everyone in one year in that country.**

You might find it difficult to put this amount of money in context, so to give you an idea of how little this it’s useful to think about how we spend similar amounts of money in the UK….

The GDP of the DRC is equivalent to less than half the amount of money the UK Government spends on Housing Benefit per year – (average per year prediction for next four years – $38.1bn (£23.75).

UK government housing benefit expenditure is about 2.5 times greater than the DRC’s GDP

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The entire population of the DRC have about half as much money to spend as BP.’s profits for 2011 ($25.7 Billion) – (BP. Is the UK’s most profitable company).

BP.’s 2011 profits were nearly twice the GDP of the DRC

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The UK population spend $9 billion more on their pets than the entire population of the DRC spend on themselves – Total UK pet expenditure per year stands at £14.9 Billion or $23.9bn

People in the UK spend $9 billion more on their pets every year than DRC’s GDP

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Britain’s second most profitable company, Royal Dutch Shell, made $5 billion more in profit than the total GDP of the DRC – Shell’s 2011 profits were $20 billion.

Shell’s profits in 2011 amounted to $5 billion more than DRC’s GDP

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Finally, and depressingly, the closest equivalent I could find is that DRC GDP is roughly equivalent the amount that UK adults spend on Christmas presents this year – An amount which stands at $13.6bn or £8.5bn.

‘Please sir, I want some more’

 

Merry Christmas!

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**Yes I know there’s probably quite a lot of additional money floating about because of the massive corruption in DRC, but I have to go with official figures because at least they exist!

 

 

Posted in Global Development, TNCs, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Do schools make a difference?

Posted by Realsociology on 30th April 2012

An excellent podcast from BBC Radio 4′s Analysis on the above topic should be compulsory listening/ reading for anyone studying the Sociology of Education – you can get both the audio version and the transcript here

The programme centres on Harvey Goldstein’s statistical research – who points out that once you take into account children’s social and economic backgrounds (their home backgrounds if you like) schools only account for 10% of the difference in a child’s educational achievement.

Although she didn’t say it when Labour was in power, on reflection, New Labour’s Education Secretary in the late 1990s, Estelle Morris, now consents that although ‘schools are all we’ve got’ they ‘can never make up for the social disadvantage that children from poor backgrounds and from disinterested families’ – late on in the programme we are reminded that only 1% of children going to Oxbridge are Free School Meal students.

So why is it that government ministers put so much faith in the potential of schools to transform students’ lives?

The programme traces this back to one study conducted in 1979 by Peter Mortimore, one of the principle researches on the “15,000 hours” study – in which the researchers did observations of good and bad schools and identified all of the features that good schools had (good being defined as those which got students good results) – These features were –

  • Good teacher support
  • A clean environment
  • Good behaviour
  • Pupils felt like they were valued

This in turn lead into a new field of study centring around the question of ‘what works’ in education – which lead to researchers being dispatched to discover what successful schools were doing – and later this lead onto the question of how we could design these success features of ‘good schools’ into all schools. The programme draws on Pam Sammons Professor at Oxford University who seems to favour this approach.

Going back to Goldstein, he criticises the work of Sammons and the like by pointing out that the features found in good schools may just be coincidental to success – the schools may have good behaviour, the environment may be clean and money might be available for teacher support precisely because these schools have pupils who are from middle class backgrounds, and this may not be repeatable in all schools around the country.

This, however, is not the view Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief inspector of schools (Head of OFSTED), famed for his headship of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, one of the most deprived areas of London – this was Labour’s flagship academy which replaced the old failing Hackney Downs schools. Wilshaw claims that, through a combination of strict discipline, very long teacher and student hours and a ‘no excuses culture’ you can improve results in any school – he certainly did in Mossbourne – last year 8 students made it to Oxbridge, way above the national average.

What he forgets to mention of course is that he also had the help of a cool £25 million cash injection for a new building, and then there’s the little matter of his new Academy having almost half the population of FSM children attending as were at Hackney Downs.

As a final note – the programme does an excellent job of flagging up how successive governments selectively ignore research that doesn’t fit in with their own political agendas. The stats suggest social class and ethnic background matters and than schools only make 10% difference, and this is ignored, you then find some statistically dubious research from 1979 and one case study from recent history and use this to show that schools can make a difference…..

 

 

 

Posted in Education, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

$40 000/ year – what Apple’s ipod city labourers could be earning

Posted by Realsociology on 4th February 2012

Apple recently reported $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales - and these are just the figures for the last three months alone!
 
This is, of course, thanks to the iphone and ipad – (Apple has sold 183 million iphones since its launch 5 years ago) which together now make up about 70% of the companies revenue.
 
There is mounting evidence that the chinese workers who manufacture apple products aren’t exactly benefitting from that £13 billion profit - in fact, it’s becoming apparent that many of them suffer human rights abuses – To list just a selection of the mounting evidence – (much of which is take from this New York Times Report and this summary from digital journey)
  • 17 Foxconn employees have killed themselves in the past 7 decades
  • Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms
  • Some workers say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.
  • Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products
  • Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iphone screens.
  • Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions.
  • Finally – A message displayed on a banner above one ‘ipod factory’ reads “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”  

The scary thing about all of the above is that we probably only know about these abuses because the iphone is so high profile - the actual company that manufactures the ipad concerned, its actually a Taiwanese company called Foxconn  

Foxconn's Chengdu plant

Foxconn happens to manufacture a whole load of other well- known brands – including the Kindle, the Xbox, and Playstation 3, and its customers also include other big name phone manufacturers – such as Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung

Foxconn has an annual revenue around $60 billion dollars, employs about 1 million people and has factories in China, India, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Brazil, but the bulk of its manufacturing is based in China where it has 11 factories – the biggest of which is estimated to have between 250 – 400 000 workers in residence. 

Now if we know that Foxconn and Chinese government collude to allow worker-abuse in the manufacture of apple products, my suspicion is that it probably goes on with other products too…!

I started off this post wanting to calculate how much surplus value is being extracted by Apple from its workers, but I quickly realised this is impossible – In order to calculate this accurately we’d have to know precisely what proportion of workers in those Foxconn factories are working exlusively on apple products – rather than making products for all the other companies that Foxconn supplies. This, along with the actual numbers of workers in these factories, are not available.

What I can do, however, is calculate how much apple could afford to give to each worker if we assume that every Foxconn worker works on apple products – and that figure stands at about $13 000 - for the last quarter! – based on

  • $13 000 000 000 – Apple’s profits for one quarter – divided by
  • 1 000 000- the global total of Foxconn employees

If you quadruple that – and reduce it slightly to reflect the fact that last quarter was ‘Christmas quarter’ – you end up with the $40 000 figure at the top of this post. Obviously these stats underemphasise what each worker could be paid out of that profit pool – if you factor in the profits from Foxconn itself and all the other electronics ‘branding companies’ the figure would increase!

To finish, just a final postscript on surpluss value. If you didn’t already hate Apple enough –  if you just look at Apple employees – Apple extracted more than $400 000 from each employee last year…

Posted in Globalisation, TNCs, Wealth and Income Inequality | 1 Comment »

Whither my vain search for nice graphs on UK wealth statistics

Posted by Realsociology on 24th January 2012

… Hopefully in a response that’ll land me with a link to some nice.. err.. wealth distrbution graphs or pie charts…

I’ve spent the last 5 years or so looking for some nice up to date visual resources on wealth distribution in modern Britain, to update the pie chars I’ve gto from about 2006 - with really limited success – is it just me or is it just impossible to find easily accessible information on wealth stats in the UK… Or are pie charts on wealth distribution just not 2012? (or 2007-11 for that matter?)

You might think that searching around the government’s own Office for National Statistics, you’d get some info about wealth, but no, this gets  you nowhere – not if you want any data from the last few years at least.

Out of desperation you might try typing in any combination of ‘wealth distribution 2010 or 11 and UK or Britain’ to google but, with the exception of the excellent report mentioned below from 2010,  you simply get directed to old stats or stats on income distribution - so this is hopeless.  

So  unless I’m missing something – it’s actually very difficult to get reliable, up to date info on Wealth Stats – but here’s five, well four, sources of info.. no nice pie charts tho’!

Firstly there is this recent government report The most comprehensive recent source on wealth distribution seems to be this report from 2010 ‘An anatomy of economic inequality in the UK’ (summarised in this Guardian Article) which found that by retirement age the top 10%, led by higher professionals, had amassed wealth of £853 000,  while the bottom 10% of households, led by routine manual workers, had amassed less than £8,000. This means – and this is my headline figure – the richest 10% are 100 times richer than the bottom 10%

For an even starker comparison – the top 1% had, by the time they reached retirement age,  accrued an average wealth of £2.6 million, making them more than 300 times richer than the bottom 10%

The report measured wealth inequalities by looking at total assets accrued over the course of a lifetime – the findings were hardly surprising – the older you are the richer you are, the poorer your parents were, the less likely you were to accrue wealth and so on…. but it is informative to have such data to hand.

The body responsible for the above report is worth keeping an eye on – The Centre for Analaysis of Social Exclusion for updates on wealth issues.

Secondly, the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (summarised in a blog which I’m not going to link to because it doesn’t link to anyone else) – reports that

The richest fifth have nearly two thirds of the wealth. More startling is that the poorer half of us speak for just 9p in every £1 of privately held wealth.
Private household net wealth in Great Britain totalled £9 trillion in 2006/08 and nearly 80% of this is accumulated in property and private pension entitlements. 

Median household net wealth was £204,500 in 2006/08. The least wealthy half of households accounted for only 9 per cent of wealth, while the wealthiest 20 per cent of households had 62 per cent of total wealth.

The least wealthy 10 per cent of households had negative total net wealth
Median net wealth – including pensions, houses and cars, but excluding mortgages and other debt – of a household in the South East is £287,900. In Scotland, it is £150,600.

Thirdly, you could use the recent Barclay’s wealth report I blogged about two blogs back

Fourthly, everyone of course knows about the rich list – I’m now reliant on other people’s summaries of this because of the Time’s paywall, and in any case, its international so the this list isn’t UK focussed and it doesn’t talk of ‘distribution’ focussing merely on the worst excesses.

Finally, For income inequalities – we can rely on the JRF’s yearly report on Poverty and Inequality - but this is based on income measurements rather than wealth.

You might like to think about why it’s so hard to find info on this stuff… Or if you know more about where to get this data from than I do, let me know!

Posted in Wealth and Income Inequality | 2 Comments »

An extra 100 000 millionaires suggests we’re really not all in this together

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd January 2012

OK – So the number of UK millionaires may have fallen immediately after the crash in 2008, but since then, millionaire numbers have bounced back – rising from 528 000 in 2008 to 619 thousand in 2010.

Even worse (well, at least if you’re a fan of justice and equality), over the same period, the number of people with net worth of over £5m rose by 19 per cent over these two years, from 70,000 to 85,000.

So while the Tory government takes an axe to public services and cuts payments to the most vulnerable, the number of UK millionaires just keeps on growing……

The source for the above figures is the ‘Barlcay’s Wealth Map’ 2011.

Posted in Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

The UK public supports greater equality in principle, but not in practice.

Posted by Realsociology on 31st August 2011

Attitude Polls such as this one from the JRF (2004) and this research from the British Social Attitudes Survey suggest that about 75% of the population believe that the income gap in the UK is too great. The graphic below shows how the difference between what people in the UK think people should earn in certain careers and what people actually earn.

However, although three quarters of the population think those at the top earn too much, only 20% of MPs support motions for greater equality in the UK – The latest news letter from the trust also states that 101 MPs have signed an early day motion on income inequality, while This link will take you to the current is a list of the 86 MPs that signed an equality pledge put together by the Equality Trust.

So here we have what appears to be a nice example of how out of step our largely unrepresentative democracy is with public feeling – untill you dig a little deeper -

The general public are deeply suspicious of redistributive policies – the public don’t like the idea of the rich getting taxed more and the government giving the money to the poorer – which is linked to a widespread mistrust of the ‘undeserving poor’ – which in turn is probably linked into myths perpetuated by media stereoypes about Chavs. So while people think the income gap is too high, they don’t want the government to redistribute income!

So one solution possible alternative solution to income inequality that isn’t redistributive could be a maximum wage? One model is that the maximum wage in a company is set at a percentage of the minimum – you could make it quite generous – say twenty times greater? That would mean if the minimum wage is say £10 000, the maximum is 200, 000 – to my mind anyone seriously arguing that they are worth more than that per year is deluded. One other advantage of this is that this would actually make managers and workers work closer together – a likely scenario is that if workers demand a pay rise – and they get it, this means the bosse’s pay would go up – if the boss imposes a pay cut – he’d also get a pay cut…..

However, despite the advantages,  the only poll I could find on this suggests there isn’t any public support for this either…

So there you have it – we have a population that thinks income inequality is too great but isn’t actually in favour of either of the two major policies that could tackle it!

The next logical thing to do would be to discuss the factors that might explain this apparent paradox – Of particular interest would to explore how valid those polls on equality beliefs actually are, and how generalisable, and  a second train of enquiry would be to explore whether ideology plays a role here – do we not want greater income equality because we all secretly (or not so secretly) harbour desires to ‘escape’ into the realms of the ‘uber-rich’?  

Unfortunately I don’t have time to discuss this at the moment - right now I need to go do my lottery tickets….

Incidentally, if you want to add your voice calling for greater income equality – then click here and, if you like the look of what you read, sign the e-petition! Needs to get to 100 000 signatures – I was number 290 – so some ways to go!

Of course – expressing your opinion, as is usual in British Democracy, is about as far as it will go – the chances of this petition or anything else related to greater equality actually being converted into action are incredibly remote – especially given the social backgrounds of MPs, with more than 50% of Tories coming from public schools or being Millionnaires.

Posted in Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »