Rich-poor divide accelerating, says OECD

Protesters in Cyprus The OECD said austerity measures should be offset by welfare spending to ease inequality

The gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years, the OECD group of industrialised nations has said.

It says the richest 10% of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income, up from nine times in 2007.

Those with the biggest gaps included the US, Turkey, Mexico and Chile.

The OECD says that if governments do not stop cutting back on welfare support this gap will grow wider.

The Paris-based group is generally in favour of free-market policies, but has recently become more vocal in support of more generous social provision to soften the impact of the economic downturn of the past few years.

Many countries, particularly within the eurozone, have been cutting back hard on welfare spending in an attempt to reduce debt and balance government books as tax revenues fall because of weak growth.

In some cases, this is a condition of international support from the likes of the International Monetary Fund.

The OECD's secretary general, Angel Gurria, said: "These worrying findings underline the need to protect the most vulnerable in society, especially as governments pursue the necessary task of bringing public spending under control."

Countries where the gap was least pronounced were mainly in the north of Europe, with Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Slovenia the most egalitarian societies.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Also, this is the essence of capitalism...they who have capital, control.. In these times of economic woe, they still have capital and snap up assets at bargain prices, thus increasing their wealth...pretty simple and not surprising really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Oh what a surprise! Osbourne and Clegg,Milliband and Harman from the main parties,Clegg and Hughes from the Libs,all have come from privalidged backgrounds and hav'nt a clue about real life.Posh boys/ girls who havn't done a proper job or experienced struggle are pointless when it comes to balancing the wealth divide,they only have experience of the up side,they're all clueless!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Unfettered capitalsism is no more to be desired than unfettered communism.

    Both are poisonous to society and result in corruption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.


    I (and I'm far from alone) see big problems coming due to this widening gap.

    I would be interested to see the figures from 2010 to 2013 when they're available, and I do not distinguish between "Labour" or "Conservative".

    Both are political parties that need, somehow, to attract private funding and both are to blame for pricing the workers out of the means to live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Lack of market and bank regulation is key to this. The rhetoric of the media and MP's has helped put a smoke screen if front of it all. To be honest, us mere poor need to wake up and stop pretending all is ok. Its far from it. Governments need to win back our trust, and the only way they can, is by opening up to the wider public, and not those who donate a vast sum of money to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    yet another bbc article pandering to the labour argument. IF you actually follow the link posted in the article to the OECD website.. click the button on the chart that says "UNITED KINGDOM" you see the actual overall top 10% vs bottom 10% only rose by 0.2%. Between 2004 and 2007 it rose by 0.9%.. who was in power in that period.. hmmm yet more tory bashing for the sake of it it seems

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The implication in the report is that if govts wish to narrow the wealth gap, they need to sustain and increase welfare provision. This is econcomic nonsense. Welfare should be a safety net only; redistribution of income is a function of taxation and the only sustainable, affordable route out of poverty is through work. Supporting a steady rise in minimum or living wage rates is a better plan

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Look at the underlying data interactively here:

    Compare the UK and OECD results as a whole, we've done better than the OECD in some aspects and worse in others. The BBC are yet again picking the negative features of the research to lead the story. Shame on you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Much has been made of the Bedroom Tax, and of the ludicrous notion that the poor on benefits have to have an internet connection to claim benefits, but what I would like to see is a Bedroom Tax on all Council Tax payers: including the Royal Family with their hunderds of unoccupied bedrooms in the so called Grace and Favour residences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Seems only fair that we claw back that extra 0.5 percent increase from all of them. Consider it an empty bedroom/second/third home/tax haven tax and,while we are about it, perhaps we should check how many of them are fit to work but resting in their posteriors on their yachts and put them to work shelf-stacking in a supermarket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Here we go again, why are people making such a big fuss about egalitarianism? So long as everyone has a rising standard of living and we all adopt middle class values, there's nothing for us to worry about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It would be nice to see a fairer world, I dont want communism but neither do I want a world where the idiot bankers ruin the ordinary guy and still get thier bonuses. It would have been nice to see them get 5 years in clink and banned as directors for 20 years. I dont see how we can carry on like this, its become obscene. Follow the link, is this ok?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    "The gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010....."

    Someone remind me who was in government at that time...was it Labour by any chance? So much for Labour fighting for the working class then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I wonder how this will end?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I don't see why people are getting angry at the govt or the systems or 'greedy bankers'; it's got barely anything to do with it. Naturally, the ones with a better approach and education in finance will KNOW where to put their money. Naturally ones who have a bit of money will use other investment vehicles to generate wealth, hence the increase. A widening gap doesn't mean the rest of us are poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So many nations portray themselves as Democratic and yet their voting systems are such that some votes are worth more than others (due to things like electoral circles) and in practice they have duopolies on power.

    Maybe those nations were the usual suspects alternate in power, work together and sometimes even pass their post to their descendants are not representative and prone to corruption!???

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    If you think it matters what party is in power, you are seriously deluded....This has been ultimately proven by the third option (lib dems) getting power...same old same old...

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    All we need now is a report from 2010 - 2013 and see how it's declined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Some in our society have to use food banks, while others can spend more than a week's job seeker 's allowance on a single restaurant meal.
    The social divide is becoming a Grand Canyon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Absolutely disgraceful. The whole sorry stack of cards is built on a sham of a tax system, which continues to protect the wealthy and multinationals.

    In essence the top 1% can pay whatever tax they see fit, and they will continue to fund the Governments to keep the status quo. The Governments then protect the bankers and so the the pyramid scheme carries on.


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