Income of Scotland's top earners 'increasing faster' than other workers

Pensioner holding cash The report said overall household income inequality had not increased substantially since the mid-1990s

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Scotland's top earners have increased their income at a greater rate than the rest of the nation's workers in the past decade, according to a report.

It said those in the top 1% income bracket - some 25,000 people - could expect to earn 20 times more than someone in the bottom 1%.

But overall household income inequality has not increased substantially since the mid-1990s, it said.

The study was carried out by academics at Stirling University.

They said they had compiled the Inequality in Scotland report to create a much more comprehensive picture of trends in inequality in Scotland, and to inform the referendum debate, and policy making.

Leaving aside the extremes of the top 1%, the study found the impact of tax credits since the mid-1990s has meant inequality has barely increased in Scotland.

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Inequality in Scotland, like in many developed nations, is partly being driven by technology, by trade, and even by how we decide to form households”

End Quote Prof David Bell University of Stirling

That is after a sharp rise in inequality from the 1980s, linked to the decline of older industries and of the wage bargaining power of trade unions.

The economists showed Scotland is around the mid-point for inequality among developed nations, and that others - including the Nordic countries - have been becoming more unequal during this century.

The study showed government policy can reduce inequality, but there are pressures on the jobs market from trade and technology.

The replacement of some jobs by computers has weakened the mid-range of incomes, meaning more people are either in the top earning range or the bottom earning range.

The study also demonstrated that the move to part time work has been one of the main drivers towards uneven earnings, particularly among men. But the economists pointed out that some people want to work part-time, so it is not clear this is unwelcome.

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By international standards, it seems Scotland isn't particularly unfair”

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It also underlined that the gap between high and low earners in Britain is skewed by the variations in the incomes of Londoners.

Scottish levels of inequality are similar to those for the rest of Britain excluding London.

The capital is roughly twice as unequal as the rest of the UK. The highest earning 1% of people in London earn 43 times more than those with the lowest 1%.

David Bell, professor of economics at Stirling University, said: "Though an independent Scotland would have more powers to address inequality, its room for manoeuvre would be constrained by these wider forces.

"Inequality in Scotland, like in many developed nations, is partly being driven by technology, by trade, and even by how we decide to form households.

"So, there are likely to be limits to the extent that a small open economy can reduce inequality. Scottish independence would provide opportunities, but the constraints that already exist would not go away."

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    This is an important issue that affects us all - whether we are going to be YES voters, or NO voters.

    Do we stick with the status quo of increasing inequality and reducing social mobility, with wealth becoming ever more deeply entrenched in the hands of the rich.

    Or do we take the chance, believe in ourselves, vote YES and, just perhaps, live in a more equitable country on day soon?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Why is it Scots have discussion on bbc websites on issues such as this:


    we never get to discuss items such as independence debate, shipbuilding or Falkirk debacle?


  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    What this doesn't mention is health inequality. It remains that there is a ten year plus gap in life expectancy between neighbouring Drumchapel and Bearsden. These areas are clearly divided by income, and it is the case that the necessary levers of power to tackle this mortal inequality are largely controlled by distant Westminster: tax, benefits, and the structures of economy and politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Sounds about right.

    It's not so much about the work you do and your values, it's how much you can demand because "you're the best"

    Why then is it that these people can make catastrophic failures in ability and morals and yet still seem to float into another high paid position, where a worker down the chain would have their reputation ruined for life?

    Ability and values over sales and ego please

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    What's Scottish about this? It's a UK wide phenomenon.

    Maybe an independent Scotland could tackle some of these inequalities - don't see the Westminster government bothering about it though. There have been many sound bites about the lack of social mobility from Dave & Co this week, but precious few ideas about how to tackle it!!


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