A study by the Equality Trust think tank this week showed the impact of the ever-growing divide between rich and poor. The report suggested inequality costs our economy in the region of £39 billion a year, thanks to the social consequences of mental illness, crime, and poor life expectancy brought about by the income gap. The trust’s Executive Director, Duncan Exley, referred to the UK’s wealth inequality as a “chasm” and suggested the effect it has is to make people feel undervalued and unmotivated.
For those on the political right who see growing inequality as an economic driver – increasing ‘competitiveness’ and encouraging those at the bottom of society to ‘strive’ for more – the Equality Trust’s study presents a clear rebuff. As an MEP for London, a city which is, more than any other place in the UK, comprised of haves and have-nots, I believe this is an issue that needs far more attention. Addressing it would not require some kind of Marxist tonic but, as Exely points out, would merely a shift to the more inclusive and sustainable types of growth seen in other EU and OECD countries.
The start of the week, meanwhile, saw new figures released which suggest conviction rates for domestic violence remain terrifyingly low. House of Commons research found that only one in sixteen reports of domestic violence result in a conviction. Although reports have actually increased convictions have fallen during the same period – a worrying sign for women everywhere.
The figures come on the back of a study last week by Europe’s Fundamental Rights Agency, which found that the UK fared much worse than many other EU counties for levels of abuse. Austerity has certainly not helped victims of domestic violence, but a more fundamental change in our culture is required too, so that reports are taken seriously and young people – including young males – are taught from a young age about the issue. To break the cycles which perpetuate domestic abuse we need much more decisive interventions.