Trends in inequality

Income inequality in the UK narrowed until 1979 when it had fallen to 24% (0.24). It then increased dramatically to a 2010 peak of 36% (0.36). Since then it has remained fairly stable, including during the recent financial crisis and is now at 36% (0.36) in 2015. (OECD and The Equality Trust).

  • In the 1980s the income of the wealthiest 10% of people in the UK was eight times that of the poorest 10%. (Source: OECD)
  • By 2011, the incomes of the wealthiest 10% had grown to earn 12 times that of the poorest 10%. (Source: OECD)
  • The 100 wealthiest people in the UK today have as much money as the poorest 18 million. (Source: Equality Trust)
  • Chief executives of FTSE-100 companies pocket an average of £5.3m each year, compared with £13,662 for someone on the national living wage of £7.20 an hour. (Equality Trust)
  • In 2015/16, before taxes and benefits, the richest fifth of households had an average income of £83,875, 9 times greater than the poorest fifth who had an average income of £9,644 (Source: Office of National Statistics)

Is this a problem?

However, not everyone seems concerned with growing income (and wealth) inequality. In a speech in November 2013, Boris Johnson, then the Mayor of London, claimed that inequality was a valuable spur to economic activity as it rewarded the most able and encouraged wealth creation.