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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect