The Rich List vs reality

The wealth of Britain's 1,000 richest could buy houses for all the homeless people in London


Yesterday the Sunday Times published its annual Rich List(£), ranking the richest 1,000 individuals and families in the UK.

The list serves as yet another indictment of David Cameron’s claim that we are ‘all in this together’ – the list shows that the richest have got richer since the start of the recession, with the assets of the financial elite increasing by 112 per cent since 2009. The richest 10 people saw their wealth increase by £3.25 billion to a total of £99.87 billion.

Analysis by the Guardian shows that the average family on the list owns £547m – without counting what’s in their bank accounts. To make it into the list this year you needed at least £100m – £15m higher than last year’s minimum. The list includes 117 billionaires, 80 of whom are in London. This means that London now has more billionaires than any other city in the world.

Not everyone is having so much fun, though. Coinciding with the publication of the rich list was analysis from the TUC, which showed that in addition to the 700,000 UK workers who report being on zero-hours contracts, there are 820,000 UK employees who report being underemployed on between zero and 19 hours a week.

Zero-hours contracts have dominated the headlines recently, but the TUC says these are ‘the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to insecure work. Part-time and short-hour jobs are typically much less well paid than full-time work; the average hourly wage for someone working less than 20 hours a week is £8.40 an hour, compared to £13.20 an hour for all employees.

The TUC says that short-hour contracts, which can guarantee as little as one hour a week, mean that some employers wriggle out of paying national insurance contributions.

Like zero-hours workers, short-hour workers are faced with constant uncertainty and often have to compete with colleagues for more hours. It’s little wonder, then, that food bank use among working people is at a record high.

The Equality Trust compared these two contrasting pictures of life in post-crash Britain.

They calculated that the combined wealth of the 1,000 richest is equal to the value of 2,041,515 houses at the average UK cost of £268,000, or 1,116,584 homes in London.

Last year’s increase in wealth could pay 1,889,963 living wage jobs for a year, or 1,035,154 average-pay jobs. It could pay nine months’ worth of bills for all UK households, or buy houses for all the homeless people in London.

The Conservative-led government has presided over a situation where the wealth of the elite continues to sky-rocket. If current trends continue, even more wealth, income and power are likely to make their way to the very top.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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