According to a Nobel prize winning economist, Britain is in danger of something downright terrible; becoming too much like America. Britain is closing in on the position of second place as far as economic inequality goes, thanks to approximately a decade of stagnant pay growth. Sir Angus Deaton, the man in question, put it best; “There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it’s only working for part of the population. There are things where Britain is still doing a lot better [than the US]. What we have to do is to make sure the UK is inoculated from some of the horrors that have happened in the US.”
What type of horrors is Deaton referring to exactly? He is currently leading a five year review on the UK, and his research has turned up some startling numbers: deaths related to suicide, alcohol, and drugs, all of which are more prominent during times of economic inequality, have more than doubled for men in Britain since the 1990s, and has risen by nearly seventy percent for women. At the same time, average chief executive pay at FTSE has risen to around 145 times that of an average worker, from what was once ‘only’ 47 times in 1998. The richest 1% in Britain have experienced the share of household income they receive nearly triple over the course of the past several decades.
While figures show that unemployment in the country is at an all-time low, a large portion of the working class is still shrouded in poverty thanks to low wages, fluctuating hours, benefit cuts, and the constantly rising price of housing. As stated by Dave Innes of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “The labor market is trapping people in poverty, when it should be offering people a route out. It is very demoralizing for people who are doing what society expects of them, going out to work to meet the essentials but still unable to do that.”
These statistics are indeed quite debilitating, and it’s understandable why the people of Britain are worried about their growth. While America bears the title ‘land of opportunity,’ people in its lower vestiges have long been stuck where they are due to unfair labor practices and situations. There is little doubt that the people of Britain would like to avoid that, though it is clearly a little too late.