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 2015, this figure has increased to an estimated £547 billion. This represents an increase of over one hundred percent. The UK is now home to the highest number of billionaires per head of the population.

In Scotland, the bottom 30% of the population receives only 14% of Scotland's income, whereas the richest 30% receive over half. Families in the three lowest income brackets had an average weekly income of around £220, whereas those in the highest three received around £630 per week.

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 earn 12 times that of the poorest 10 per cent. (Source: OECD)
  • The 100 wealthiest people in the UK today have as much money as the poorest 18 million. (Source: Equality Trust)
  • In 2013/14, before taxes and benefits, the richest fifth of households had an average income of £80,800, 15 times greater than the poorest fifth who had an average income of £5,500 (Source: Office of National Statistics)