Richest one per cent owns 20 times wealth of poorest fifth in Britain

Oxfam report urges Theresa May to take action on bosses pay and tax avoidance


Oxfam has called on Theresa May to take action to curb inequality, as a new report from the charity finds Britain is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

It finds the richest one per cent of the UK population now owns more than 20 times the total wealth of the poorest fifth.

Meanwhile, the top ten per cent own more than half (54 per cent) the country’s total wealth.

The top one per cent own nearly a quarter (23 per cent), while the bottom 20 per cent have a mere 0.8 per cent between them.

Oxfam also finds around 634,000 Britons are worth as much as the poorest 13 million.

The charity urged Theresa May to take action to close the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The new Prime Minister has said she wants more equality, promising a society ‘that works for everyone’.

Oxfam’s report also suggested massive inequality contributed to the Brexit vote in June’s EU referendum and called for sweeping reforms to big business.

The report said:

‘The UK is one of the most unequal developed countries in the world.

Three decades of high-level inequality have had a profound impact, leading many people to believe that they have little stake in society and to feel locked out of politics and economic opportunity.

Whatever your views on Brexit, the referendum brought divisions within our country to a head, with many people expressing distrust and disconnection with political processes and voting for change in the hope that it would improve their economic position.’

Oxfam welcomed May’s pledge to shake-up corporate culture and made four recommendations:

  1. Workers on company boards, as the PM has suggested.
  2. Skills training on the job, with incentives for employers who do this, especially in sectors that employ many women, such as retail, childcare and social care.
  3. Skills training on welfare, with the benefits system rejigged to encourage training and education to boost wages.
  4. Curb bosses pay with pay ratios for top and bottom-earning workers, aiming for 20:1, so bosses don’t earn more than 20 times the lowest paid worker.
  5. Tackle corporate tax avoidance including UK-linked tax havens.

Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam’s UK programme, said

‘Inequality is a massive barrier to tackling poverty and has created an economy that clearly isn’t working for everyone. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world, but it’s a nation divided into the haves and have-nots.

While executive pay soars, one in five people live below the poverty line and struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.’

She added:

‘Oxfam welcomes the fact Theresa May is embracing this agenda. Addressing the practises of unscrupulous business needs to be a central part of the Government’s plans to even up the economy.

That means closing wage gaps, incentivising investment in companies’ staff and making sure they pay their fair share of taxes.’

See: ‘Where we agree with your policy, we’ll support it’ – TUC boss offers olive branch to Theresa May

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