The gap between rich and poor people in the UK is one of the widest in the developed world. 21 October 2008. The divide in earnings widened by 20 per cent between 1985 and 2005, leaving the gap between the top and the bottom greater in the UK than in three-quarters of other developed nations. The situation has been improving since 2000, researchers found, with the UK experiencing the largest drop in inequality among all developed nations.
While both the richest and poorest have been getting richer, the bottom has experienced a growth in earnings three times as large as the top, the report, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD), found.
However, the survey does not include the earnings of the super-rich – a group it describes as "large and rising". It added that many people believe the equality gap has widened due to what it calls the "Hello magazine effect". Its authors said: "We read about the super-rich, who have been getting much richer and attracting enormous media attention as a result."
Unemployment is also a significant problem in the UK, the report found, with 16 per cent of all households with a working-age head found to be totally jobless. "Only Belgium, Germany and Hungary have more people in households where no one has a job," the authors said. However, the number of children living in workless households has fallen in recent years.
The researchers also discovered that the proportion of single-parent households in the UK has increased almost three times as fast as the OECD average, and now account for about 7 per cent of the total population.
However, the report found that poverty has fallen significantly in the UK, with income poverty – the number of households on less than half average income – falling from 10 per cent to 8 per cent between the mid-1990s and 2005. "For the first time since the 1980s, the poverty level is well below the OECD average," the authors said.
Meanwhile, the number of UK children living in poverty fell from 14 per cent to 10 per cent in the same period – "the second largest fall – behind Italy".
However, the rate of child poverty remains a cause for concern, standing above levels recorded in the 1970s and 1980s.