Party leaders warned: ‘Ignore inequality at your peril.’ 80 per cent of public put reducing pay gap as priority for government
Tackling the gap between rich and poor is set to become a defining issue of next year’s general election, with 80% of UKIP supporters saying it should be a government priority – more than cutting taxes or the benefits bill – an ICM poll for the High Pay Centre reveals today.
Across Britain, concern about pay gaps is now greater than about immigration, the benefits bill or the EU.
The High Pay Centre poll shows how even the critical UKIP vote will be shaped by policies prioritising action on inequality. It reveals that, among UKIP supporters:
- 80% say it is important for government to reduce the gap between rich and poor, while 78% say the government should prioritise cutting taxes or reduce the benefits bill;
- 87% say UK pay gaps are ‘unfair’ and often don’t reflect how hard people work;
- 85% say current pay gaps make it harder for people on low pay to get by on what they earn;
- 84% believe UK businesses are often run to make a fast profit – not benefitting workers or communities in the long term.
Pay gaps and concerns about business behaviour are now embedded as mainstream political issues, with voters of all the main parties identifying them as priorities:
- 80% of British adults say cutting the gap between rich and poor should be a priority – more than say the government should reduce immigration, cut the benefit bill, or change the UK’s relationship with the EU;
- 80% say UK pay gaps are too large, making it harder for people on low pay to earn enough to get by;
- 82% believe the benefits from business successes mostly go to owners and bosses – while workers and society carry the cost of business failures;
- 77% say UK businesses are often run to make a fast profit and don’t benefit their workers or the community in the long term.
Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre, said:
“The message to party leaders is clear: ignore inequality at your peril. Concerns about pay gaps are no longer confined to voters on the left. This is now a central issue for voters of all parties – trumping concerns that often get more attention, like the EU and the benefits bill.
“Behind these worries about inequality is a widespread feeling that we need to change the way the economy is run. Most people see businesses as organised to benefit their owners and bosses with the rest of us losing out. These results show the depth of public desire for the party leaders to build an economy that works for everyone rather than just a few at the top.”
Notes to editors
1. ICM Research interviewed a sample of 2,043 British adults aged 18+ online on 4th – 6th April 2014, including 379 who would seriously consider voting for UKIP if a General Election were held tomorrow. The results have been weighted to the national population profile. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
2. Total pay awarded to a FTSE 100 company executive is now 133 times that of their average employee, up from 47 times in 1998. The average package was £4.3 million in 2012 (the most recent year for which full data is available) according to the 2013 Manifest/MM&K Executive Director Total Remuneration Survey.
3. The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the EU, with the richest 1% of the population taking a share of total income around twice the size of other Western European countries. A recent book published by the economist Thomas Piketty notes that the gap between rich and poor has become much wider in Britain and the US than in other advanced economies.
4. Tackling inequality was described by Ed Miliband as “the new centre ground of politics” in his Hugo Young lecture, 10 February 2014.
5. Supporters of political parties were identified in the poll as those who said they would ‘seriously consider’ voting for each party if a General Election were held tomorrow.