An unequal society is an unhappy one too : West Oxon Greens Blog
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An unequal society is an unhappy one too

by WestOxon Greens Editor on 03/24/13

Would you like to live in a society which has the following?  


  • Greater Life expectancy
  • Greater Maths & literacy ability 
  • Lower Infant mortality
  • Fewer Homicides 
  • Less Imprisonment 
  • Fewer Teenage births  
  • Greater levels of Trust between people 
  • Less Obesity Less Mental illness (inc. drug and alcohol addiction Greater Social mobility


And what would you say if you knew that there is ONE SIMPLE FACTOR that determines the quality of life within a society - for everyone in that society, whether rich or poor?

On 20th March, at a Green Party sponsored public meeting in Witney, Maddy Power of the Equality Trust presented extremely compelling evidence that the quality of life is strongly related to the size of the gap between the richest and poorest within a country.

In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. Just look at the US, the UK, Portugal, and New Zealand in the top right of this graph, doing much worse than Japan, Sweden or Norway in the bottom left.

Crucially, this is true whether you are rich or poor.  Richer people are happier and healthier in more equal countries than are richer people in less equal societies!  Everyone is better off in a more equal society.  So, why don't we make the UK a more equal society?

If the UK were more equal, we would be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:


  • Murder rates could halve
  • Mental illness could reduce by two thirds
  • Obesity could halve
  • Imprisonment could reduce by 80%
  • Teen births could reduce by 80%
  • Levels of trust could increase by 85%



Unfortunately the following graph shows that we are still heading in the wrong direction.

Inequality increased massively under Margaret Thatcher and has stayed high ever since.  And the latest coalition measures on tax relief on child care costs have been shown to be of benefit to 1,700,000 families in the richest 40% and only 160,000 families in the poorest 40%, so the equality gap may well be still increasing.

In an unequal society, everyone, including the rich suffers greater levels of stress, works longer hours and feels intense pressure to either maintain or raise their position in the highly competitive culture engendered by unequal societies.  This leads to unhappiness, ill-health, broken families and broken children - for everyone.

The modern mantra seems to be that we need more economic growth to improve our quality of life.  But that is simply not true.  As long as a society has enough wealth overall (and all developed countries do), then greater wealth does not result in greater quality of life.  What matters for quality of life is how equal or unequal a society is.

Tory, Tory/Lib Dem and Labour governments alike have done nothing to create a more equal society, despite their rhetoric.  In their efforts to protect the wealth of themselves and their supports these governments have made everyone's quality of life worse, including for themselves and their supporters….. and how dumb is that?

The guiding values of the Green Party are to create a sustainable and socially responsible society - and that would mean a more equal society.


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