Inequality and poverty in London

It might not come as a surprise to those paying to live in London that the inequality and poverty rates are higher than the rest of the nation — but it’s to what extent that makes it so shocking. 27% of the city lives in poverty, compared to a rate of 20% for the rest of England.  What is more, the wealth of the richest 10% of London’s population is 173 times that of the poorest 10%(while Britain’s ratio sits at 60 times.)

This shocking inequality together with the London mayoralty being one of the most important positions in the UK is why Oxfam is calling for the next Mayor of London to be at the forefront of tackling poverty and inequality by appointing an Inequality Commissioner.

What would the Commissioner do?

Develop a strategy for addressing economic inequalities and poverty in the capital

This would involve working with stakeholders like London’s Enterprise Panel and London Boroughs to align economic growth and development with goals to combat poverty and inequality. A key and immediate part of this would be to champion the Living Wage in London. Currently around 19% of jobs in London pay less than London’s living wage of £9.15[2], the majority of which are held by women[3]. This contributes to the rising rates of those experiencing ‘in work’ poverty and excludes those living in
London from what London offers and produces.

Develop a ‘decent work standard’ based on participatory research with employees and employers

As well as advocating a living wage, the Commissioner should seek to identify a ‘decent work’ standard. The type of work currently available in London often does not provide the hours, flexibility or opportunities to employees and limits the quality of work available in London. The Inequality Commissioner should work with those who experience low paid work to determine their priorities about what they consider ‘decent work.’ This would ensure those experiencing poverty are part of the solution.
Oxfam found ‘decent work’ for low paid workers, in Scotland, includes pay, training and job security. Including these factors in policy design would increase job satisfaction and well being in the workplace, which would positively affect retention rates and productivity.

Consider the role of London’s financial sector in relation to global inequalities

An important role of the Commissioner should also be to investigate how the central role of the finance sector in London’s economy impacts on inequality and poverty. The financial crisis in 2008, caused by deregulation in the sector, resulted in higher rates of poverty and inequality and illustrates the need to regulate the financial sector. The sectors ethos on short-term profiteering makes the economy vulnerable to further instability and needs to be addressed to prevent further setbacks to lifting people
out of poverty.

Equally, London and the UK also have a vital role in ensuring wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of tax. Oxfam’s Even It Up campaign demonstrates how tax havens fuel inequality and the city of London’s central position in helping to put an end to tax dodging[4].  By reviewing the consequences of how the financial sector operates and its role in tax havens, the
Inequality Commissioner can make suggestions to government about how best to reform it.

Assess the potential of any new devolved powers to address inequality and poverty in the capital

As devolution from Westminster to other regions develop, it is likely the Mayor of London will gain greater powers. In which instance, the Inequality Commissioner should assess and suggest how best the London Mayor can utilise their devolved power to effectively tackle poverty and inequality.

How can we make this happen?

67% of Londoners already think current wealth inequalities are a problem (compared to only 18% who think it is not) and the mayoral candidates need to know! With the upcoming Mayoral elections on 5 May it will be vital to put inequality and poverty in London on the agenda and tell candidates to even it up! Join our campaign now to send a message to all mayoral candidates, and ask them to commit to
being at the forefront of tackling poverty in London by appointing an Inequality commissioner.

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