We Are Not “All In It Together” – it’s official


Inequality across the OECD is rising, including in Britain, even before the impact of the current crisis has even worked its way through, an important new OECD report shows.

Neo-liberal ideologues argue that any curtailment of inequality inevitably leads to Soviet style societies, which is of course just a way of avoiding a sensible debate about what are acceptable, and unacceptable levels of inequality in any society?

How far can inequality go – especially when living standards of the majority are falling as they are in the UK today – without a sense of social coherence, and order, breaking down? These are acute questions that governments and oppositions ought to be addressing, but generally are not.

Nor is a debate just about equality of opportunity sufficient. This should be about complete equal opportunity and greater equality of outcomes. 

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“The gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over over 30 years, and governments must act quickly to tackle inequality, according to a new OECD report.

Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising” finds that the average income of the richest 10% is now about nine times that of the poorest 10 %  across the OECD.

The income gap has risen even in traditionally egalitarian countries, such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden, from 5 to 1 in the 1980s to 6 to 1 today. The gap is 10 to 1 in Italy, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom, and higher still, at 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States.

In Chile and Mexico, the incomes of the richest are still more than 25 times those of the poorest, the highest in the OECD, but have finally started dropping.

Income inequality is much higher in some major emerging economies outside the OECD area. At 50 to 1, Brazil’s income gap remains much higher than in many other countries, although it has been falling significantly over the past decade. 

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government. Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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