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Why isn’t Labour making more of Bank of England & IMF calls for greater equality?

It is remarkable that Mark Carney in his ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ speech of 27 May remarked that all the research shows that “relative equality is good for growth”. It is not an original idea since Christine Lagarde, as well as the Pope, have both made similar comments. So if even the Right from both the BoE and the IMF acknowledge that gross inequality has gone far too far and that the market system determining the allocation of pay is now wholly out of control, why doesn’t the Labour party run with it and make it one of the key half dozen themes at the National Policy Forum next Friday? For the evidence of the toxic and damaging effects of the ultra-inequality we have today is overwhelming.

Contrary to New Labour’s attitude of “being intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich” on the grounds that it didn’t harm anyone else, all the evidence now indicates it does do exactly that. There are now over 200 studies on income inequality and health. Life expectancy, infant death rates, low birth weight, obesity, abd poor mental health have been repeatedly been shown to be worse in more unequal societies. The UK, for example, has the 4th lowest life expectancy out of the 23 most developed countries. The 3 countries with even lower life expectancy – Portugal, the US and Singapore – have even greater income inequality.

Infant mortality and low birth rate show the same pattern. Infant deaths per 1,000 are 3 in Japan and Sweden, but 7 in the US. It is incredible, but true, that at least until the Euro crisis erupted, babies born in the US had a 40% higher risk of dying in the first year of life than babies born in Greece, despite Greece spending less than half the amount per head on health care. Take another example: obesity affects 30% of the US population, but in Japan which is one of the most equal countries, only 3%. In the UK a fifth of the population are over-weight, twice the level in the Netherlands. Or an even more poignant example: mental ill-health. In the US 1 in 4 of the US population are afflicted in this way, but in Germany, Japan, Italy and Spain it’s less than 1 in 10. In the UK it’s 1 in 5.

What all these studies show is that it’s not just a matter of spending more money on the NHS – though the Tories’ £20bn health cuts make that absolutely necessary now. It’s also crucially important to attack ill-health at its root, and that means drastically reducing inequality to provide the foundation for better health across society, as well as tackling a whole range of other social pathologies by the same means.

One Comment

  1. George Malynicz says:

    Inequality of the weak UK recovery should be the first plank of Labour’s Manifesto. It is the best way of motivating the large numbers of dispossesed into voting. They did not cause the crisis but thet are paying for it.
    Currenly Labour’s political profile is non-existent. The conservatives must not be allowed to get in by default.

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