UK poverty is worst in the West

Poverty is rising faster in Britain than in any other major industrialised country, an authoritative new United Nations report reveals.

The report also shows that the poor are poorer here than in any other Western country for which figures have been collected and that a higher proportion of old people live in poverty than anywhere else in the West. Britain's child poverty rate, moreover, is second only to the United States.

This devastating indictment - which Claire Short, Secretary of State for international development, describes as "worrying" - contrasts sharply with progress in the fight against poverty in much of the rest of the world.

The Human Development Report, published by the United Nations Development Programme last week, concludes that poverty rates have fallen in over 100 countries over the past two decades and adds: "By the end of the 20th Century some three to four billion of the world's total population of 5.7 billion will have experienced substantial improvements in their standard of living."

The report has drawn up a new way of measuring wealth and poverty which compares not just incomes but purchasing power in all countries. By this measure the poorest fifth of Britons are able to buy less than their equivalents in any other major Western country. They have only two-thirds of the purchasing power of the poorest fifth of the people of the United States, Spain, Italy or Hong Kong - and are worse off even than those in Singapore, Israel and the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile the wealthiest fifth of Britons are among the best-off in Europe, outstripped only by the French, the Swiss and the Danes. They also enjoy about the same purchasing power as their peers in Japan, where the poor are almost twice as well off.

Britain's national wealth, the report shows, has been growing at almost exactly the same rate as in Sweden and Kenya. But the income of the poorest fifth grew 21 times as fast in the Scandinavian country, and four times as rapidly in the African one, as here.

The report adds that Britain is the only major Western country where poverty has "increased substantially" since the beginning of the 1980s. Up to then it had been falling, as in every other industrialised country. The change coincides exactly with Mrs Thatcher's coming to power: the proportion of poor people in "income poverty" jumped by nearly 60 per cent under her government.

Nearly a quarter of Britain's old people live in poverty, more than five times the rate in Italy, more than three times as in Ireland, and exactly the same proportion as in Taiwan.

And nearly a fifth of the United Kingdom's children are poor - about twice a many as in Taiwan or Italy, four times as many as in Belgium and six times as many as in Finland. Half of all Britain's single parent families live below the poverty line.

Last year's human development report showed that Britain is the most unequal country in the Western World. Dr Richard Jolly, Principal Co- ordinator of the report said last week: "Poverty and inequality have been rising in Britain relative to other countries in the industrialised world."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

School Administrator

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Long term SIMS School Administr...

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week