Britain's wealth gap wider than ever

When the Labour party rose to power back in the 1990s it would have been fair to assume that the gulf between rich and poor would be gradually narrowed. But a new report by the National Equality Panel has revealed that the opposite is true and Britain's wealth gap is currently at its widest since the Second World War making the UK one of the world's most divided countries.

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Though gender and ethnic background are both factors that determine a child's success, according to the report, commissioned by Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman, social class is the most important key to financial wealth.

Miss Harman is currently pushing for new equality legislation that would give the working classes better career opportunities and the report will be something of an embarrassment. But from education to pensions and taxes, the panel identified areas in which action against inequality was desperately needed.

For instance, British white boys from poor families were found to be well below the national average at seven years of age and things only got worse when they hit secondary school. And below average white British children are less likely to go on to higher education than those from minority ethnic groups.

Women aren't faring so well either, as they earn 21 per cent less than the national average, despite often being better qualified than men by the time they hit their 40s. Meanwhile professionals on their way to retirement are worth nearly £1 million while the long-term unemployed manage a paltry £59,000 and poverty rates in Britain are among the worst in Europe.

Yet Miss Harman still insists: "We have made progress over the last 13 years, especially in tackling poverty, and halted the rising growth of inequality that dates back to the 1980s. But we will do more to increase social mobility and tackle the barriers that hold people back unfairly."

Has the Labour party done enough to tackle social inequality or would a Conservative government make a better fist of narrowing the class divide?