`Poor are poorer and rich richer'

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The Independent Online
A quarter of the population - 13 to 14 million people - live on less than half the average income, the Child Poverty Action Group said yesterday, writes Nicholas Timmins.

The figure is more than double the number in 1979: one in three children is growing up in poverty, while living standards of the poor and affluent are "marching in opposite directions" the pressure group said in the latest edition of its handbook, Poverty: The Facts.

From 1979 to 1992/3, the real income, after housing costs, of the poorest tenth fell by 18 per cent, while the richest tenth enjoyed a "staggering" 61-per- cent increase. Britain saw a sharper rise in inequality than any developed country except New Zealand.

Far from wealth trickling down from the rich to the poor, figures from Economic Trends show household income has filtered up from the poorest sections of society to the richer ones, the CPAG said.

Even after redistribution by taxes and benefits, the poorest fifth saw their share fall from 9.5 per cent in 1979 to 6.6 per cent, while the share of the richest fifth has gone from 37 per cent to 44 per cent.

The report calls for fairer taxation, including a more progressive structure, to improve benefits for the poor, warning that policies which encourage privatisation of parts of Social Security and the means-testing of much of the remainder would "result in a general reluctance to finance social welfare".