inequality

Executive pay rockets again

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Bosses’ pay has risen by 21 percent in the past year, while average wages for workers have fallen in real terms.

According to a new report from Incomes Data Services (IDS), top executives at the FTSE100 companies now “earn” 120 times as much as the average employee in Britain. Back in 2000 the figure was 47 times. Over those 14 years executives saw their median earnings rise by 278 percent.

Much of the inflated growth in income comes from share awards and bonuses, which top up salaries for the rich.

Feeling the squeeze: Workers' living standards in the economic crisis

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Working class living standards are being seriously hit as the economic crisis worsens. As inflation rises and wage repression continues, households' real disposable income is falling. Laura Cooke and Kevin Devine unpick the latest statistics that show the scale of the squeeze

For the first time in over 30 years the real disposable income of British households is falling, and the degree to which this is happening is increasing as inflation continues to climb. The Office for National Statistics reports that real incomes fell by 0.8 percent in 2010, which is the highest fall in real disposable incomes since 1977. In the first quarter of 2011 it reports incomes fell by 2.7 percent, over three times this amount, confirming that money pressures are growing.

Clearing the poor away

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With the poorest set to suffer most from cuts, Danny Dorling looks at the damage the spending review will do to the lives of millions.

The comprehensive spending review announced the start of a new era of engineered social polarisation: a further separation of the lives, hopes, homes and chances of rich and poor.

One of the first announcements was that new tenants of council and other social housing will now have to pay at least 80 percent of market prices in rent. At one stroke millions of low paid families are to be excluded from living in hundreds of towns, cities and villages where they no longer earn enough to "deserve" to be.

Brutal budget to entrench inequality

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The first budget of the "progressive" coalition government saw George Osborne promise massive cuts for the poorest in society while offering tax relief for businesses, writes Danny Dorling.

George Osborne - flanked by two Liberal Democrats - spoke with the confidence that you would expect of a man with the pedigree of aristocracy. David Cameron had positioned himself behind Osborne so that the camera could not see him as the chancellor gave out the bad news. Thus "Dave" was nowhere to be seen as the axe was wielded across the welfare state, or when it was announced that VAT was to be increased to 20 percent or that poor pregnant women would have the special benefits being paid to them cut. Dave's wife is pregnant.

Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists

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Daniel Dorling, Policy Press, £19.99

A veteran Tory MP recently suggested that people who travel standard class in trains "are a totally different type of people". Not surprisingly, he was quickly slapped down by David Cameron since that kind of elitism doesn't exactly fit the image of the new, reformed Tory party. Nevertheless, the belief that certain groups of people are inherently superior to others is one of several that have helped to create and sustain the highest levels of income inequality in Britain since the Second World War.

US: Food insecurity

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There is a sharp rise in hunger in the US.

Some 17 million US households suffered "food insecurity" at some point in 2008, according to a survey by the US Department of Agriculture. This figure, comprising just under 15 percent of all households, was up sharply from 13 million in 2007 and has now reached the highest level since such surveys began in 1995.

Food insecurity is a polite expression for hunger and is defined in the report as households that "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to lack of resources" - lack of money, in other words.

US: Poverty

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7.7 percent of households have no bank account.

Of those households with no bank account, 21.7 percent are black, 19.3 percent Hispanic, 15.6 percent Native American and 3.3 percent white. A further 17.9 percent of households are "underbanked', that is, they have limited access to banking facilities. That's almost 54 percent of black households, 44.5 percent of Native American households and 43.3 percent of Hispanic households.

New Labour equality flagship on the rocks

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New Labour has had 13 years to tackle inequality but the underfunded and toothless equalities watchdog falls far short of what's needed.

Working people in Britain now largely take it for granted that it is wrong to be bullied or discriminated against for being a woman, black, disabled or gay and that there are legal powers and workplace policies which exist to challenge such discrimination. In the last quarter of the 20th century a smorgasbord of equality legislation was adopted in response to campaigning by the women's movement, anti-racists, and LGBT rights and disability rights activists.

Myths of the white working class

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Talk of the existence of a unique and specifically deprived white working class being discriminated against conceals the real issue of class inequalities

A series of walkouts under the divisive slogan "British jobs for British workers" early in the year drew unprecedented attention from the press and put strikers on the front page of a sympathetic Daily Mail. The strikes were hugely contradictory - a godsend to nationalism, racism and the British National Party while defying the anti-union laws. The mainstream media focused on the former and were broadly delighted.

The Spirit Level

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Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Allen Lane; £20

In their preface to this book, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett note that "people usually exaggerate the importance of their own work and we worry about claiming too much". In fact, despite some weaknesses to be discussed below, The Spirit Level is by any criterion a groundbreaking work and one that deserves the widest possible readership.

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