Sunday, September 02, 2007

The inequalities of the UK

From The Independent :-

Britain may appear to be a richer country than a decade ago but the gap between the rich and poor has reached levels not seen for more than 40 years. The highest earners are being dubbed "the new Victorians" as they take an ever-greater slice of the wealth pie, leaving mere employees and white-collar workers sharing the crumbs.

Government statistics show that the richest 10 % of the population control 53 % of the wealth of the country, with the 1 % jet-set elite controlling no less than 21 % .

In the City, fat-cat pay awards, with top executives earning 100 times more than their employees, are merely the most obvious examples of where the balance has become skewed. The kingpins of Britain's opaque private equity and hedge funds are earning considerably more while simultaneously paying "less tax than a cleaner", according to Nicholas Ferguson, chairman of private-equity and fund management group SVG Capital. In the UK, Peter Taylor, chief executive of Duke Street Capital, has admitted that the tax paid by private equity companies such as his is "unnecessarily low". The number of billionaires born, living or making their money in the UK has trebled in the past four years, and the number of millionaires is expected to quadruple to 1.7 million by 2020. Sir Ronald Cohen, one of the UK's richest men, founder of private equity group Apax, whose non-domiciled status has caused controversy, has said the wealth gap could lead to rioting in the streets.

In the US a report from the Institute for Policy Studies last week showed that the average chief executive of a Fortune 500 company now earns 364 times the pay of a typical US worker, while four hedge fund and private equity bosses took home more than $1bn (£500m) in the past year. The investment guru Warren Buffett, the third richest man in the world, has criticised the US tax system that allows him to pay less tax than his secretary.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the social policy research organisation, says that society is becoming polarised. Its latest report states that "wealthy households in already wealthy areas are becoming disproportionately richer compared with society as a whole."

The level of social mobility in the UK – the ease with which the next generation can expect to become more affluent than their parents – is among the lowest of any developed nation.

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