As a country, we are facing an increasing gap – not just between rich and poor – but between rich people and the average worker.
It is estimated that the income of middle-income workers in Britain has gone up by just 56% since 1978, while total national income (called GDP) has risen by 108% over the same period. For the low-paid, the results were even worse – their income has risen a mere 27% over the past three decades. Meanwhile, the highest paid 10% have been the only group to see their incomes rise in line with GDP.
The increasing levels of income and wealth inequality in Britain are bad for society. Two academics, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, have looked at figures from a variety of developed countries in their book The Spirit Level and found that more unequal societies tend to have higher rates of ill-health, infant mortality and crime and lower levels of education and social trust. If we want to improve the quality of life in our society, we need to tackle economic inequality.
A key way of tacking inequality, in addition to having a fairer tax system, is strong trade unions. Trade unions by collectively bargaining can get better terms & conditions from employers than if workers just had to accept what employers offered, as is generally the case in non-union workplaces. We, as trade unionists, must make the case for the benefits of developing, spreading and expanding trade union organisation – and soundly oppose the criticisms directed at trade unions from the political opponents of trade unionism and from the millionaire moguls who own the bulk of the media.