Disparity City & Country

Disparity in the city and country

Does equality make us happier? Is inequality destroying Britain?

 

We often see that Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway are chosen as the happiest places in the world to live. One of the main reasons is that they have the highest levels of equality in the world. There is no big difference between people who have good jobs and people who have lower-level jobs. Unfortunately, the opposite pattern is true in countries like Britain and the USA. Inequality is rising and happiness is falling.

The UK is the fifth most unequal country in Europe. Over 20% of the population lives in poverty whilst the top 20% of people earn six times more than the bottom 20%. 10% of the population owns 44% of the nation’s wealth. The picture of inequality around the UK is a complex one. Let’s examine it. 

 

Inequality on the rise

Regrettably, inequality is an issue that is getting worse. The highest 1% of earners are getting richer and richer while the rest of the country lags behind. The people who have suffered most are millennials - people born from the mid-1980s and after. This is seen most easily in the area if property and accommodation. Younger people are much more likely to rent their home rather than buy it. They are only half as likely as people in their 60s to own their own home. 

 

Inequality by region 

The inequality around the UK is not a uniform pattern. This means there is a big difference between regions. For example, people in London are much richer than people in most other areas. In fact the southeast of England has £2.46tn of wealth, yet the northeast has just £368bn. In fact, the southeast has almost double the wealth of any other region in the country. The closest competitor is the East if England with around £1.2tn total wealth.

 

Consequences of inequality

As mentioned earlier, equality causes countries to be happier while inequality makes them less happy. This is currently evident in the UK. For example, the Brexit situation was one of the most divisive in British history splitting the country almost in half and causing huge conflict and disagreement. The political system is also growing increasingly polarised with parties pulling to the right and left and leaving nobody in the middle ground.

The inequality seen in the UK is also clear in the poverty visible around the country. The growth of zero-hours contracts means that nearly 2 million people work without a guaranteed number of hours and a guaranteed salary. They also lack holiday benefits and long-term job security. Because of this, we have seen an increase in the number of people using food banks to get enough food to eat. 

 

What is the government doing about this?

Inequality is clearly a major problem in the UK - it is not just the UK, though, as inequality is a problem in many countries. Surely, the government is doing everything it can to fix the problem? Maybe not. In fact, many people would argue it is not doing enough. Many people have called for a higher level of tax for the highest 1% of earners in order to raise money to alleviate poverty. However, as yet, we have not seen any major changes. In fact, the government has even reduced taxes on corporations.

The government has taken some action to improve the situation. It has increased the minimum wage to £8.21 for people over 25. However, that is still very low for life in big cities. For younger people, the situation is even worse. Those aged between 20 and 24 earn £7.70. For those aged 18 to 20, the wage is £6.15. 

The figures above show that inequality is not limited to region; age is also an issue. Young people earn less and have less chance to have their own home.

 

Zero-hours contract: Where a person has a contract but the employer decides how much time they work.

Food banks: Charities where people go to get free food.

COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Which part of the world is seen as being very equal?
What factor is seen to be decreasing in the UK and USA?
What percentage of the UK population lives in poverty?
How much of the UK’s wealth does the richest 10% have?
What are younger people in the UK less likely to own?
Which event is seen as an example of the UK growing polarised?
What resource are many people using in order to not go hungry?
How much does a person over 25 earn if he or she is on the minimum wage?
How much does someone under 20 earn if he or she is on the minimum wage?
VOCABULARY QUESTIONS
IKEA, Nokia and Skagen are all famous _____ brands.
Everyone either loves this idea or hates. There doesn’t seem to be a _____.
The group is very _____. Half the people support Tom while the other half think he should be fired.
I think we can see a _____ here. Everything's the same.
Our sales this year were £2 million. Last year, they were £1 million. This year is _____.
There are lots of people in the city who are very rich, but there are also lots of people who are poor. There is a lot of _____.
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