Inequality in Britain now means the richest one per cent of the population take home 15 per cent of total income – compared to just six per cent in 1979.
Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University,will tell audiences at the Royal Statistical Society’s Beveridge Memorial Lecture tonight:
“The last time the best-off took as big a share of all income as they do today was in 1940, two years before the publication of the Beveridge Report, which became the basis of the UK’s welfare state after the Second World War.
“If we look back about 100 years, we can see that inequality in the UK did drop significantly in the 70 years from 1910-1979.
More than half of that drop in inequality took place prior to 1939. Since 1979 these inequalities have risen dramatically and continue to rise.”
Of course the post-1979 landscape is synonymous with the rise of Thatcherite economic neo-liberalism, ushering in massive inequalities in wealth, health and opportunity which became entrenched. An age still best summed-up by Thatcher in her infamous claim: “there’s no such thing as society”.
Professor Dorling argues that in the early 1940s, the ‘nine per cent’ – (the rest of the best-off ten per cent minus the richest one per cent) – were paid an average salary of 2.4 times average income – as they were in 1959, 1969 and 1973.
By 1990, however, as income inequalities widened, this ‘nine per cent’ were paid three times average incomes and that continued until 2007.
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But the gap is increasing not just between rich and poor but between the super-rich one per cent and the ‘nine per cent’ well-off – who have been dropping back towards the 2.4 historic average for the past five years.
Professor Dorling argues:
“As each year passes, and the richest one per cent get richer still, the rest of the best-off ten per cent increasingly have a little more in common with the remaining nine-tenths of society, and less and less in common with those at the very top.”
Are we still supposed to be “all in this together?”