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27/01/2010

Rich-Poor Gap At 1970s Levels

The divide between Britain's rich and poor is at its widest in 40 years, a government-backed report has found.

Pay and employment differences for men, women and minority groups remain "deep-seated and systemic", the National Equality Panel said.

Action is needed in neighbourhood renewal, taxes and education to counteract the challenges, according to the study.

Equalities Minister Harriet Harman said the findings required "sustained and focused action".

"But for the sake of the right of every individual to reach their full potential, for the sake of a strong and meritocratic economy and to achieve a peaceful and cohesive society, that is the challenge that must be met," she added.

The report highlighted instances of racial discrimination, namely employment opportunities for those from minority groups.

Those from minority backgrounds are still likely to be paid jobs than white men and women.

Founded in 2008, the panel's other assertions included a definite sex split on wages.

Women over 44, who are better qualified than men, still receive smaller pay packets.

Part time jobs are still mostly staffed by women, who earned a lesser median hourly rate.

"The challenge that our report puts down to all political parties is how do you create a level playing field when there are such large differences between the resources that different people have available to them," panel chair Professor John Hills, of the London School of Economics, told the BBC.

Theresa May, shadow minister for women and equalities, said: "Labour has had a one-dimensional approach, looking at the symptoms, not the causes. For example, one in six children are growing up in a workless household. We need policies that can make equality a reality."

(PR/GK)

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