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Inequality in the UK - Statistics & Facts

The United Kingdom has some of the highest levels of inequality in Europe, according to the GINI coefficient, an index that measures income inequality within countries. Inequality in the UK is not confined to overall income equality, however, with a more accurate picture presenting the obstacles and challenges which limit the opportunities of different demographics. In 2020, for example, the gender pay gap between a man and a women's average hourly earnings was 15.5 percent for full-time workers. This difference in earnings is also heavily associated with age, with the gender pay gap for people in their 30s standing at 0.7 percent, compared with 12.8 percent for workers in their 50s. Differences in earnings can also be observed when comparing people of different ethnicities. In 2019, for example, the ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales stood at 2.3 percent, indicating that white British people earned more on average than those of an ethnic minority. Although the ethnicity pay gap has fallen from a peak of 8.4 percent in 2014, this overall pay gap masks some significant pay gaps for certain ethnic groups. Pakistani workers, for instance, earned 15.5 percent less than that of white British workers in the same reporting year.

Long term trends in reducing inequality stall

In 1900, the wealthiest 10 percent of people in the United Kingdom controlled approximately 93 percent of personal wealth, while the top one percent controlled 71 percent. Throughout the 20th century, this wealth was gradually redistributed more evenly and by 1990, the richest 10 percent of people in the UK controlled just 46 percent of personal wealth, while the wealth of the richest one percent was reduced to just 16 percent. By 2000, however, this long-term trend had reversed slightly, with both the 10 percent and one percent seeing their share of personal wealth increase slightly when compared to 1990. More recent measurements of income inequality also capture this trend somewhat, highlighting that while broad income inequality has not increased much, there has been no progress towards further redistribution. In fact, when the income share of the top one percent is examined, there is evidence to suggest that the very-highest earners saw their share of income grow much faster than the rest of the country.

Poverty in the UK

As of 2020, almost 14.5 million people in the United Kingdom were living in poverty, after the factoring in of housing costs. In this reporting year, approximately 3.2 million children were living in relative poverty, which represented a poverty rate of 30.7 percent. The high prevalence of child poverty in the UK has remained stubbornly high in recent years, especially when compared to the pensioner poverty rate which fell significantly in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a result of these rising poverty rates, an increasing number of people in the UK are relying on food banks, with more than 2.5 million people using the main UK foodbank organization in 2020/21.

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