Men still clean up and other fables of fairness

Without really trying, UK policymakers have failed to close the gap between the nation’s rich and the poorest members of society. Hanna Szymborska advises.

With growing outcry in academic journals, newspaper headlines and broadcast media, rising inequality has been pushed high up the public agenda. The discussions take in disparities in health, education housing and jobs. Overarching all of these are the economic inequalities: In the UK, the richest 10% owned more than half of all wealth and earned nearly 40% of all income in 2013. And at the global level, the most affluent 1% of the world’s population own more than 80% of global wealth. This concentration of economic resources is a challenge to our society.

It threatens democracy because a small group of voters have a disproportionate financial influence over political outcomes which discourages political participation among the wider electorate. Economic inequality is also instrumental in shaping the broader quality of life by adding to poorer physical and mental health and a range of social problems such as crime and violence.

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