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World's most unequal city
LONDON IS the most unequal city in the industrialised world, with the richest worth 273 times the poorest, according to a new book.
The author, Professor Danny Dorling* of Sheffield University, reckons that a similar wealth chasm has not been seen since the days of a slave owning society in Britain.
The latest government figures show that the top 10% in the Capital are on average worth £933,563 each, compared to a figure of £3,420 for the bottom 10%.
The super-rich were hardly affected by the recession. According to the book, for example, the cost of a flat in the desirable City of London area rose by 24% to £450,000 in the depth of the recession in 2009 when house prices elsewhere were either falling or static.
Also, as Professor Dorling says: "You have rich people living longer and longer, while life expectancy has all but stalled for the poor".
Where I live in Tower Hamlets the wealth gap is now staggering. In recent evidence to a parliamentary select committee, 17 of the 19 wards in the borough were shown to fall within the most deprived areas in the country, according to the government's Index of Multiple Deprivation.
There is the highest mortality rate in London, and the most acute overcrowding in the country, particularly hitting the local Bangladeshi population, where 42% urgently need re-housing.
At the same time, the annual average male earnings in the Poplar and Canning Town parliamentary constituency, which accounts for nearly half the borough's population, had reached £101,322 by 2005 according to the Office of National Statistics' labour market survey.
Seeing the poverty all around, this figure is incredible at first sight, but is soon explained by the presence in the constituency of the Canary Wharf banking district.
Here, bankers and speculators typically earn not just millions, but tens of millions, and many of them live next to poverty stricken local housing estates, in newly built riverside apartments and penthouses that can cost millions.
Whoever wins the election, the unprecedented gap between rich and poor will continue to increase, since all the main parties plan to continue vicious attacks on the working class and poor.
Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists, by Danny Dorling, Policy Press 2010.
* Dorling's statistical world maps exhibiting the world distribution of HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancies, infant mortality rates, etc, together with an interview with the author, were featured in one programme of the recent BBC4 series on the history of maps entitled Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession.
In The Socialist 28 April 2010:
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