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Last Updated: 02/23/2005The Poor are Always with Us
"Focus on Social Inequalities," Editors Penny Babb, Jean Martin and Paul Haezewindt, Office for National Statistics – London TSO, December 2004.
“Focus on Social Inequalities” describes the different experiences of social groups in the UK today in six key areas: education, work, income, living standards, health, and participation. It looks at the ‘advantaged’ as well as the ‘disadvantaged’ and explores the relative differences between them.
throughout the current literature on globalization and its benefits and/or ills,
are the issues of social and economic inequality. The term globalization is
vague: globalization of what, exactly? A globalized process, but in what way?
Globalization at root is globalization of the capitalist system. Hence, whatever
is true of capitalism generally must be true of globalized capitalism. Empirical
evidence is clear: capitalism is not only based on inequalities but continues to
reproduce inequalities (even though the benefits result in a shift from absolute
poverty to relative poverty). Not only has this always been the case, but it
continues to be the case, and a recent set of surveys in the
Focus on Social Inequalities, edited by Penny Babb, Jean Martin and Paul Haezewindt is available free on-line:
It is not
surprising to find that the better off are the parents in the
Looking at the figures historically, we note that for a time there was a tendency for inequalities of income to diminish. This was the case between 1979-1983, but then the trend was markedly reversed and all the gains were lost. Consistent with Kuznetzsian views, as growth rates increase so do inequalities. Thus inequalities reemerged with a vengeance in the rest of the 80 s and then as stagnation took place in the 90 s not much happened either way. All this is pretty normal to watchers of economic growth and income distribution. On balance, growth has some benefits for the poor because while inequalities increase, there are also some absolute gains, and, of course, growth does produce improvements in public services, especially in the provision of elements of the social wage such as health and education.
of wealth, however, is considerably more uneven than that of income. Half the
wealth of the
for the future of the
While lower income groups have caught up or are catching up in terms of washing machines and central heating, they now lag behind markedly in the information age with poor access to PCs and the internet. Better off families are six times more likely to have internet access than poorer families.
In terms of health, despite nearly sixty years of health provision, the poor have poorer health than better off groups and die earlier. Better off men lived seven years longer, and women nearly six years longer, than those in lower income groups.
We are left then with a consistent picture. Economic growth does bring all kinds of benefits to all and raises the definition of what constitutes absolute poverty. But the rich stay rich, even if the become less poor.
Simon Stander is the editor of the Peace & Conflict Monitor.