Worst-paid take a month to earn as much as rich spend in a week

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The Independent Online

The richest tenth of the population spends six times more in a week than the poorest, according to a study that gives a detailed insight into the gulf between the lifestyles of those at the top and bottom of society.

The richest tenth of the population spends six times more in a week than the poorest, according to a study that gives a detailed insight into the gulf between the lifestyles of those at the top and bottom of society.

Those in the lowest income group spent £135 a week, £7,020 a year, while the wealthiest 10 per cent spent £883 or almost £46,000 a year, the Office for National Statistics reports. The richest groups spent the same amount of money in a week as the worst-paid 10 per cent of workers earned in a month.

The breakdown of spending revealed a marked contrast in the way people live. The poorest devoted more than a third of their expenditure on the bare necessities: food, clothing, heating, light and rent. The richest income bracket, however, needed less than a quarter of their weekly purse for the basics and were able to spend a third of their budget on transport, recreation, culture and school fees.

The survey showed that as a proportion of their total budget, households in the lowest income group spent twice as much as food and non-alcoholic drinks as those at the other end of the social spectrum.

One finding that will confirm popular conceptions was that the poorest spent more than double their share of their entertainment budget on gambling than the richest - although in cash terms the wealthiest bet more. Spending on tobacco was highest for households in the middle-income groups, which spent up to £7 a week, compared with £3.80 for those in the lowest group and £5.10 in the highest.

The findings came from the office's annual Expenditure and Food Survey, published today, which attempts to show spending patterns across wealth brackets, household types, ages and genders.

Transport was the largest area of expenditure for the average UK household, which spent £59 a week on buying and running a vehicle as well as public transport fares. Spending on recreation and culture was the second-highest outgoing, with households on average spending £56 on television, computers, newspapers, books, leisure activities and package holidays.

Food purchases cost £40, including £10 on meat, £5 for fresh fruit and vegetables and £2 on chocolate and confectionery.

The report also revealed how households' spending patterns have changed. A quarter of a century ago the average household had to devote 24 per cent of its budget to food, compared with just 16 per cent now. The share needed to pay the public utilities has halved from 6 to 3 per cent, while leisure services has increased from 6 per cent to 14 per cent of budgets.

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