A richer, more prosperous country – for which everyone benefits from – will produce a fairer, more equal society.
Our sluggish growth rate is causing much higher inequality. The stark reality is our economy is not growing at a high enough rate to ensure everyone feels their real incomes are increasing.
Over the course of the last three decades, the top 0.1% saw their incomes far more than doubling up to the time of the 2008 crash, twice what they were in the early 1990s. At the other end of the scale, the whole of the bottom 90% of income earners have experienced no real increases at all for nearly two decades.
Over the same time period, the UK economy has become heavily unbalanced as the South East grows faster than the rest of the economy. These imbalances have only exasperated regional disparities in prosperity and equality, leaving regions in the North, Midlands, Wales and Scotland less well off.
These inequalities and imbalances are not just geographical, but intergenerational with today and tomorrow’s generation facing more economic and social challenges than their parents and grandparents. The system is failing them the most.
The post-war cohort had free tertiary education whereas today’s generation has had to pay around £9,000 or more per year for the same privilege. As well as having a pool of long-term jobs to fall into and the opportunity to purchase property cheaply, the economic reality for today’s generation is much different and more difficult with higher house prices and an ultra-competitive, serviced-based jobs market that excludes those who don’t go to university.
The UK has a flexible labour force and relatively low rates of unemployment, but work is often unreliable, low paid and part time.
The issue here is not how can we achieve equality of incomes for everyone – it is how can we avoid the disparities becoming so wide that the country’s social fabric starts to break down.
We all have an interest in making sure this does not happen, but we first must acknowledge that our low growth rate over the last ten years, ten years of austerity which has hit the regions the hardest, combined with our unbalanced economy is largely responsible for these excessive and unsustainable inequality trends which we urgently need to readdress and turn the tide of.