Pay and perks: is inequality the price of prosperity? Once upon a time we lived in a world where even senior Labour Party politicians were intensely relaxed about some people getting filthy rich, because they believed we’d all be better off as a result. It’s hard to be so sanguine now. Inequality has soared, and economic growth has been anaemic across much of the western world. Are we sacrificing the security and happiness of millions of working people in the name of an outdated dogma?
Our special guests for this ThinkIn included:
Kamal Ahmed, editorial director, BBC News.
Frances Coppola, financial writer and commentator.
Michael Marmot, director, Institute of Health Equity, UCL.
Inequality in the UK is high, and the evidence of its effects on a society with vast gaps to bridge is mounting. Our conversation was about the scale of gaps between rich and poor, not just absolutes of poverty; and whether inequality is just part and parcel of prosperity. Some highlights:
Sir Michael Marmot explained how people in the UK want some inequality: they think people at the top deserve to be paid about six times as much as those at the bottom. Their hunch was that bosses were paid twelve times as much. The reality? 350 times as much.
Stephen Gilmore, one of our members, pointed out how toothless most remuneration committees are within companies.
Kamal Ahmed told us he expected a huge wealth inequality bump as baby boomers’ wealth cascades into the (smaller) generations which followed them.
Frances Coppolla raised questions about what finance ministries and central banks should learn from how far they have fuelled inequality since the financial crisis.
Muthoni Garland and Millicent Dok, visiting from Nairobi, warned about what happens when elites do not need to engage with the lives of others – notably, public services. Politics can stop engaging with the lives of ordinary people.
We owe a particular thanks to Muthoni and Millicent – now new members! – who also raised a difficult topic in London: reparations. Britain is about to embark on a new trade policy – negotiating with countries defined by our Empire. We have some awkward conversations ahead. Inequality does not stop at the Channel.
We should take a look at land prices, and what they do to Britain.
Remuneration Committees are a problem, and a drain on public confidence in British business. Let’s get inside some.