October 21, 2008 / 10:14 AM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX: OECD highlights a growing gap between rich and poor

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(Reuters) - The 30-nation OECD released a report on Tuesday on the growing gap between rich and poor in many of its member states.

Here are some of the findings on a country-by-country basis. More information is available on the www.oecd.org website.

UNITED STATES - The United States has the highest inequality level and poverty rate (ie those who live on less than half median incomes) in the OECD after Mexico and Turkey. Since 2000, income inequality has increased rapidly, continuing a long-term trend that dates back to the 1970s.

The average income of the richest 10 percent is $93,000, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP)*, the highest in the OECD and compared with an OECD average of $54,000. The poorest 10 percent have an income of $5,800 per year, against an OECD average of $7,000. The top 10 percent hold 71 percent of net worth and 28 percent of total income.

GERMANY - Since 2000, income inequality and poverty have grown faster in Germany than in any other OECD country. They increased by more in five years (2000-2005) than in the previous 15 combined (1985-2000).

Although poverty rates are high, people do not stay poor for long. Only 2 to 3 percent of the population are poor for 3 or more years in a row -- half of the OECD average.

BRITAIN - Since 2000, income inequality and poverty have fallen faster in Britain than in any other OECD country. However, the gap between the rich and poor is still greater there than in 75 percent of OECD countries.

The wage gap has widened by 20 percent since 1985, notably at the start of this period. The number of people living alone or in single-parent households has increased more rapidly than in all other OECD countries, widening inequality.

FRANCE - France is one of just five countries where inequalities have fallen in the past 20 years, but have still not reached the levels seen in nordic European countries. The average income of the richest 10 percent is $54,000 (PPP)*, while the income of the poorest 10 percent is almost $9,000.

The government welfare program does not target the poor. The poorest 20 percent receive just 16 percent of benefits.

ITALY - The gap between rich and poor rose sharply at the start of the 1990s and Italy now has the sixth largest gap of all OECD countries. The average income of the richest 10 percent is around $55,000 (PPP). The poorest 10 percent have an income of around $5,000.

JAPAN - Income inequality and poverty have declined in Japan over the past five years, reversing a long-term trend toward greater inequality. Nonetheless, Japan's level of poverty (meaning people who live on less than half median incomes) is still the 4th highest in the OECD.

The average income of the poorest 10 percent is $6,000 (PPP)*. The average income of the richest 10 percent is $60,000.

CANADA - After 20 years of continuous decline, both inequality and poverty rates have increased rapidly in the past 10 years, now reaching levels above the OECD average.

Over the past 10 years poverty has increased for all age groups, by around 2 to 3 percentage points to an overall rate of 12 percent. Although poverty rates are high, fewer households than in other countries struggle to purchase basic goods.

MEXICO - Income inequality and poverty levels have improved significantly over the past five to 10 years but remain the worst in the OECD, 1.5 times higher than the OECD average.

The number of people living on under half the average income fell to 18 percent from 21 percent in the past decade. However, 22 percent of children and almost 30 percent of people aged over 65 live in households with an income below the poverty line.

The average income of the poorest 10 percent is less than $1,000 (PPP)*. The average income of the richest 10 percent is just more than $25,000.

AUSTRALIA - Income inequality has fallen quite sharply since 2000 and is below the OECD average for the first time. However, poverty has not fallen, and at 12 percent is above the OECD average.

Australia is one of the most socially mobile countries in the OECD. What your parents earned when you were a child has very little effect on your own earnings.

Australia targets its welfare benefits much more tightly on low-income households than any other country in the OECD. Some 40 percent of total spending on cash benefits goes to the poorest 20 percent of the population.

* - Purchasing power parities reflect "actual" consumption -- i.e. the costs of a common basket of consumer goods that are either purchased on the market or provided for free or at subsidized prices by governments.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Dominic Evans

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