There’s a key barometer of income disparity, which some might describe as a measure of fairness. It’s called the Gini Co-efficient and the higher the number the more unequal the distribution of wealth in that country.
The so-called Anglo Saxon nations of the UK and US have a very high Gini. In the US alone, the top 1% of the population owns 23.5% of that country’s income.
This is at the heart of the #Occupy movement.
And governments – whether democratic or otherwise – should not ignore this movement because it could be the start of a gamechanger.
That’s because these Occupy movements aren’t the usual collection of hippies, communists and conscientious objectors – though they are well represented here as well. They are mostly populated by young educated middle class men and women. People who are seriously worried that they have no future and no way of creating a future for themselves.
50% of 18-24 year olds in Spain have no job. One million young people in Britain are unemployed and finding it very tough to get on a career ladder.
These people are the voters and leaders of the future and they cant even get unpaid internships because the sons and daughters of the elite have those slots mopped up.
They are experiencing something their parents never did. They have forgone early income streams in order to get an education and when they come out the other side burdened with massive university debts, they either cant get a job or the job they get pays no better than the guy who left school at 17.
This is why the Labour leader Ed Miliband (who has otherwise been uninspiring) knew exactly what he was saying when spoke of the ‘squeezed middle’.
Why would you bother getting a 3rd level education if you dont earn considerably more than the person without a degree?
This is frightening politicians who know that the middle classes drive every economy and decide every election. If they see their young adults out of work with good degrees and nowhere to emigrate to, that bodes ill for society as a whole.
And it’s getting worse. Even if you have a nice white collar job like an accountant or solicitor, you face the very real prospect of being priced out of the market by your equivalent in India. Companies, which outsourced blue collar jobs such as manufacturing are now targeting the professions.
That doesnt make companies nor capitalism evil. It’s just a natural yet unexpected by product of the same globalisation which has lifted hundreds of millions out of abject poverty.
And so the cost-cutting and austerity which is a by-product of the banking crisis – caused by the 1% – has spawned a new very mobile and very switched on protest movement on behalf of the 99% .
Theirs is the earth and all that’s in it. Yet for the first time they (the young middle class) are poorer in real terms than the generation before them.
How long will it be before the well heeled start rioting on the streets of London, Manchester, Boston or New York ie the countries with high Gini Co-efficients?