Income and wealth inequality

Bank notes

Income is generally understood to cover a person’s earnings from their employment, dividends from shares and stocks, pension payments etc.

Wealth includes income but also the total value of a person’s assets, eg housing, personal possessions such as artwork or jewellery, money in the bank, the value of stocks and shares, etc.

Income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in the UK than any other rich nation. In 2005, the richest one per cent were worth an estimated £250 billion. By 2021, this figure has increased to an estimated £800 billion.

In Scotland, the wealthiest 10% of households had £1.6million in wealth whereas the least wealthy 10% had £7,500. In addition, one third of households did not have savings to cover the basic living costs for three months in the event of an emergency.

Trends in income and wealth inequality

  • In the 1980s the income of the wealthiest 10 per cent of people in the UK was eight times that of the poorest 10 per cent. (Source: OECD)
  • By 2011, the incomes of the wealthiest 10 per cent had grown to 12 times that of the poorest 10 per cent. (Source: OECD)
  • By 2016, the richest 10% of households had 44% of all wealth, whereas the poorest 50% own just 9% (Equality Trust)
  • By 2021, the richest 10% received 50% more income than the poorest 40%