Tag Archives: Inequality

Austerity, benefits process, cuts and poverty impact on mental health and psychological wellbeing

Psychologists march from BPS Leicester to BPS London to raise awareness of impact of benefit system (process, cuts, sanctions and poverty), food poverty (in and out of work) homelessness (rough sleeping, sofa surfing, poor inadequate housing and risk of homelessness) (Guardian article)

The psychologists walking 100 miles to fight austerity’s impact on mental health

Walk the Talk website

Homelessness and Housing Shortages, a deliberate plan of inequality, sacrificing the poor

Housing shortage, homelessness and substandard accommodation, squalor, insecurity, Corporatism, Exploitation, Poverty, Austerity for the poor. 

Homelessness and Housing Shortages, a deliberate plan of sacrifice of the poor for the material benefit of the powered elite. Less than 20% of families on average incomes now earn enough to be able to start buying a home in modern Britain:

House prices: eight in 10 homes out of reach of families on average wages

Who can afford a roof over their head?

When one considers how much developed  countries spend on military, or on bailing out the banks and supporting through money printing quantitative easing for the banks, vast sums of money. Also in post WWII when rebuilding and the start of the welfare state with NHS or any country when building homes. In China the mass construction of vast cities, even ones with very few residents, ghost cities and is also if not utilised a vast waste and open to corruption, but is an example of massive infrastructure developments, state funded.

In many countries privatisation has also increased corruption involving profiteering of privatised companies and is a danger for the HS2 project in UK which is planned over a very long period of time, but is concentrated on a single transport link and does nothing to deal with the housing crisis and like many high cost state supported private schemes, which is currently a private owned rail system, so in effect is a subsidy for the private sector and  is open to quick profit syphoned off to directors and put into tax havens. The massive sum of money on this link also does nothing to solve great disparities between regions and cities in terms of jobs, pay and job security.

Homelessness and single vulnerable poor

Single people without families or where any relatives are also in poverty and do not have means to support them are at very high risk of moving from relative poverty to absolute poverty. People can be single, but without financial support for many reasons and many more are in this position than is realised by many researchers even, who often put everyone together, disguising the poorest outliers within broader data sets.

Being a single adult without support of others can happen at any age from becoming an adult. It can happen through bereavement, who may have lost one or both parents early due to illnesses,  disabilities, or be a carer because of  these.  They may have been been fostered, adopted or who have relationship problems, including abuse by parents, foster or adopted parents, or have been in a relationship, left home, only to be abused by a partner. Also where people have problems of drug or alcohol addictions, and disorders where a family cannot cope , so requiring separation for the sake of other members. This can also be due to mental health problems,  for many reasons, why people without  a regular income from a secure job, or redundant, unemployed may have very little if any outside support and are therefore totally reliant on benefits, not for luxury living, as anyone without anyone who can give a financial helping hand doe snot have even the minimum standard of living according to all scales of necessary minimum income needed to live in the developed world and expensive countries such as UK, so is literally a last resort safety net, that is now being removed, exposing the most vulnerable, with nowhere else to go at the greatest risk .

Guardian article: Welfare reform puts single people at risk of homelessness

Homelessness can be seen as a deliberate societal control varying as a means of abandonment of the state enabling more for ‘the haves’ less for ‘the have-nots’, whist serving as deterrent to force millions to take lowest levels of pay possible to survive, anything but be homeless and be grateful to have a job and not fight for better pay.

When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the sheer horror of the rich losing all their monetary net worth caused panic from world leaders and a resolve to do something to save the money of the rich, at all costs. Whether they succeeded or have only temporarily saved them due to a flawed means or by constantly defending the rich against the poor risk future uprisings of poor masses is open to debate and may play out over a longer time period, just as the Great Depression did. But they have sacrificed the poorest, also hit the poor to middle, anyone but themselves. Whilst they initially taking some of the hit due to the rapid meltdown of the stock market between 2008 and 2009, they then resorted to unprecedented scale of money printing to give to recapitalise the banks, reflate housing and stock market bubbles.

Also to engineer ideological austerity of the poor for the profit of the rich has resulted in the rich now becoming the richest they have ever been and the poor even poorer. Wealth inequality has widened to levels last seen around 1900 to 1930 and if it carries on will hit Victorian levels of inequality. They bailed out the banks, in the case of UK up to £1.5 Trillion all told, by various means, most significantly Quantitative Easing (QE) and boosted company profits by lowering tax for corporations and allowing them to get away with paying much less tax or no tax. But governments around the world, with the exception of Iceland have bailed out the banks and sacrificed the poor. To make matters worse for the poorest, governments following deep austerity plans, such as UK have cut benefits and support, forcing them through the cracks they have made in the welfare state that is being actively broken down by political ideological anti-welfare state policies.

When any society decides to abandon the poor en-masse, it is a means of population control accompanied by poverty with inadequate  diets, exposure to cold and damp, unhealthy conditions, with physical and mental health consequences and increased incidences of disease and malnutrition. Effects of living on the streets for rough sleepers are immense, with massive curtailment of quality of life and much higher mortality rates than the rest of the population. Such lowered life chances also exist for those in poorer accommodation, in low paid stressful jobs , insecure employment, unemployed and in debt due to poverty. Life expectancy is massively curtailed for many of the poor and this is not taken account of in artificially costing out for economic statistics, such as the cost to the so-called taxpayer, bearing in mind that everyone is a tax payer and that the poorest tend to pay the biggest proportion in indirect taxes and taxes on essentials. In the way that ‘benefits’ used to support the poor are given a cost, human life itself is not given value by the propaganda, only cost of  supporting life as an index of those fortunate enough not to be in the situation of poverty and despair.

Life for rough sleepers or in and out of hostels and occasional boards in low quality, dangerous environments, having to live with drug users, needles, inadequate sporadic food, usually of low quality and often risky condition, is not a solution for helping those in that situation out of it or to help and treat those with alcohol and drug addictions or to intervene to help to deal with mental health issues. It does the reverse, it encourages drug and alcohol use to try to escape the real world with a sense of desperation, through the use of chemically induced changes of state of mind, of presence, based substances that for a time change perception, an escape from very real hardship, but with terrible costs to pay because of the damage they do.

London Evening Standard: Number of young rough sleepers in London doubles in four years

The cost of supporting homeless would be relatively minimal on the scale of any countries economies, but instead most countries choose to let organisations deal with the consequences the best they can, which can be very limited and sporadic, that rely on volunteers and organisations that do their best with limited funds, facilities and competing between organisations and charities for limited finite sources of funding by a public with more poor themselves struggling to make ends meet, or others with means but wanting to keep more to themselves, but overall which limit the ability for charities to provide a solution, all they can do is do their best and without them people at the bottom would be without support. But having charities does not solve the problem. It is thus through the efforts of those involved in helping to deal with the symptoms, but not having sufficient means to deal with the causes, which are really societal.

Johnny Void: “DWP And Homelessness Charities Link Up To Bully Homeless Benefit Claimants”

Also in a blog by Jayne Linney the further tightening and cutting of support for the most vulnerable and homeless is discussed, along with details of a time limit of four weeks of exemption from actively looking for work, even for rough sleepers whose main priority is not competing with the millions of unemployed and underemployed after too few real jobs, but trying to get enough food to barley survive on, where to rest and sleep, how they can survive on the streets:

House Building, Supply and Demand in a 2-tier economy and Housing Market

Populations of many countries including UK are increasing, but house building Is not following suit. After decades of not building homes to match the population a crisis ensues, but it is a crisis of the poor and of a making by the state, along with an often unrealised sacrifice of more wealthy middle incomes who may be able to afford a decent home, but who are like mice running on an ever faster treadmill, chasing after a smaller and smaller piece of cheese.

 

If economic theories and GDP are looked at, which are in themselves open for criticism and debate, in relation to data collection, interpretation and what it all means to real people in real situations, also with variations depending on where one lives and what circumstances they are in. If immigration is considered, then that means more homes are needed, but immigration over the decades have created wealth and increased demand for local services, often much more so than the so called rich CEOs business leaders and financial services sectors who tend to put their wealth in tax havens and kept within the more exclusive luxury set and closed circles. Many local businesses have developed due to cosmopolitan mixes of populations, as opposed to standardised junk food, gambling, loan sharks, pound shops with cheap and unpaid labour selling goods often sourced by cheap and even unpaid labour, paying much less or even no tax on profits.

All governments engage in some level of control and distribution, trouble is it can be the opposite of wealth distribution for fairness and inequality, but instead upwards, is divisive and intensifies inequality.

 

When a state wilfully chooses not to build homes when the private sector is not building enough affordable homes, based on low incomes and not providing for masses in insecure employment, part-time, zero hour or unemployed.  Mostly the private sector prefers to build the more  expansive and for many even the majority unaffordable luxury developments. This is for  more lucrative new homes for maximum profit not for society. The shortfall where homes are needed to be provided for those who cannot afford to buy a home or to pay often equally exorbitant rents, all geared towards immense profiteering amidst a large base of unemployed and low paid, including a great number in insecure work, causal, temporary , zero hour, minimum wages that were set low and before massive increases in the cost of living inflation for utilities and essentials, required just to live independently, with mass privatisations of what used to be public utilities, adding to costs to accommodate enormous profits, even for fundamental human rights of natural resources necessary for life, of water.

 

Homelessness and the cost in dealing with It needs to be looked at on a national scale and in relation to country wide budgets, as part of society, the infrastructure, sufficient provision for the entire population, within context of the whole economy. This should be case in a more enlightened modern world, rather than the comparatively primitive feudal systems and massive inequalities of such as the Victorian era.

 

As such the cost of immediately removing homelessness would be relatively minimal, with so much great wealth for a large enough percentage of the population, in itself therefore need not be a big issue, but one of fine tuning, redistribution of some of the vast wealth towards solving a problem for those without means or resources to solve it themselves.

 

Much of a country’s wealth is also wasted, frittered away through corruption, people in high places ensuring they more than amply reward themselves from a big slice of the pie. Also by governments deliberately due to being buddies and joint investors of corporations, by not trying to get tax from very wealthy corporations that are partly so wealthy due to exploiting workers around the world. But nevertheless extremely wealthy and not paying taxes. Instead all going to chief executives and suits at different levels, also the cost of military expenditure of many countries is astronomical, often surpassing provision for the poor, as its lucrative, money making and often having investment involvement of governments, corporations and banks.

 

To house all of the homeless would be on the scale of the country’s finances a relatively small cost and have huge benefit to society, be humane, and ironically, if part of a house building programme would add wealth to countries that did this.

 

However those in power realise that this would also bring down cost of housing that is artificially high due to a lack of availability, not based on affordability but based on a shortage and speculators taking the ride to the top, before the inevitable housing crash on the other side of the failed economic policy.

 

 

The new Rachman rentier in an era of Austerity

 

Owning a home has become unaffordable to very large numbers of people, in effect to a new underclass of the poor, back to the days of Victoriana and a neo-feudal era of Austerity.

 

Those without work or doing all they can do part time, casual, temporary, but even secure low waged is not enough to buy a home. Renting has been allowed to rise to as much as mortgages for properties according to affordability being massively overpriced. However deliberately ensuring a shortage of supply of properties results in enough with money, borrowing or speculating driving up the prices temporarily, as it is unsustainable, whilst the poor cannot even get on the ladder in the first place. High cost rents have been supported by a mushrooming housing benefit system, which does not provide any material benefit for the poor, who continue to get poorer, but simply subsidises landlords who often own multiple properties and rake in profits from having so many properties, often assisted by banks who see them as business customers and people renting as just the ‘pesky’ poor people, as business people often see them, paying the rent or as a source of housing benefit.

And now landlords have been given the go-ahead from government to evict people on housing benefit, the poorest are facing evictions, even when they have spent years of time and effort improving the properties they were renting:

The following item from the Daily Mirror gives an example of one landlord owning multiple properties engaging in mass evictions of those on benefits:

For those on housing benefit allowing landlords to not have people on housing benefit means less places where the poorest can go to and all the best rented properties going to those with incomes that cover high cost rents, but for people with low, insecure or no incomes, having to fight with others for the poorest quality housing.

 

Inequality and a return to a Feudalism Class structure and economic system

Relating to macroeconomics Stiglitz (around 53:00 in video) with reference to Piketty ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ describes how much wealth now inherited and so is a reversing of the ability to improve one sown positon, back to previous ages when mush wealth was passed down through families leading to class divides, segregation, even though affordability to get an education through a massively increased cost education system.

 

At 1:03 in the video, Stiglitz mentions GDP is not a good measures of an economy as it does not say who is getting the wealth, it can mask inequality.

Wealth distribution in Holland affected by low taxes on financial products and investments that rich people more likely to have invested in, but higher taxes on essentials, mentioned in relation to economic commentary by Piketty:

https://twitter.com/vBelz/status/483588067593584640

How large differences in wealth have begun a new tax debate

This results in all the previous ways out of poverty being severely restricted for very large numbers and is reflected in poverty, inequality, lack of affordable housing and increasing homelessness.

References

 

Thomas Piketty (2014) Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press.

 

Joseph Stiglitz (2013) The Price of Inequality. Penguin.

 

This item is ongoing and may be added to as appopriate

Race to the Bottom: In and out of work poverty in reality both getting worse in UK and in many countries

One aspect of the current economic transference of the labour market is increasing in-work poverty, mixing unemployment and underemployment, more as part of a continuum of employment, with part-time, zero hour, and low paid remuneration, based on increasing of inequality. There is a widening as well as record wealth divide in many countries around the world. Some economics workers refer to the Gini coefficient and index, but this itself can be misleading, especially as it inadequately represents the scale of absolute poverty at the bottom and misses off the difference between poor and very poor, which can be the difference between being hard up and affording to live. Destitution, hunger and often is with respect to particularly disadvantaged groups or sectors within society, so that the reality for groups driven into poverty can be far worse than the very general Gini index can accommodate.

The following article also mentions availability of data, like unemployment statistics can be very misleading, or even if in the same direction, can underestimate the real situation and related circumstances for those suffering poverty. Limitations and even worse biased selection of samples of the population used in data collection, with resultant statistical error and questionable validity mean absolute poverty at the bottom is often far worse than statistics based on official available figures:

‘Difficulties calculating inequality and the gini coefficient’

‘In-work poverty’ soars by 59%

Useful reports on In-work poverty by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, discussing the various elements that contribute to falling incomes for the poorest in work:

‘Zero-hours contracts are just one part of the UK’s in-work poverty problem’

Not enough jobs, not enough hours, not enough pay: shocking rise of in-work poverty in Wales revealed in new JRF report

Search of ‘in-work poverty’ from Joseph Rowntree Foundation site provides some interesting demographics and details of reality behind the statistics:

In-work poverty article search

“Child poverty is increasingly a problem in working families”

It is a typical graphical representation from official sources illustrating rising UK in-work poverty statistic (2001/02 compared with 2011/12). It is useful as it highlights a problem of in-work poverty mushrooming in UK, but it is also  problematic to compare 2001 to 2011, as standard of living rose especially so for the poorest, but has rapidly fallen since 2010 and continued to fall since 2011. It also has to be borne in mind that the division is very general rich and poor, whilst in reality there are divisions of poor, with many shades of poor, with the poorest without means or with family able to supplement inadequate means, having the greatest fall in the standard of living in UK.

This statistic has been featured in many recent articles and newspaper reports on in-work poverty in UK relating to the latest in-work poverty situation. However, I have felt every time I read this information on in-work poverty increasing that it is often unintentional, but sometimes intentional affect, by comparing the two of making people think that out-of-work poverty is falling, whereas in-work poverty rising, but in reality both are rising, just in-work poverty is mushrooming. Often headlines state in-work poverty is now a bigger problem than out-of-work poverty. It is actually an unnecessary association, but it is a factor of comparing two variables, namely in and out of work poverty as a percentage of total poverty.

It was important to emphasise that this is something though that is often missed from illustrating the rise of in-work poverty and not a criticism of this graphical representation. In-work poverty is indeed a very real problem in itself, with many more going to work, but still not having a living wage and even benefits increasing due to inadequate income. However benefits have been cut per individual, so although the benefits bill in terms of government expenditure can rise and needs to with real inflation, as opposed to the inadequate official inflation figures is rising even more for the poor, due to the much higher weighting of essentials in the cost of living.

So for those having to rely on benefits, it is a very real cut and those not in work unless they have any other sources of support, such as family and not everyone has family or family that can provide financial support are left even more impoverished. But the way that the comparison appears is a factor in the way that statistics work, or rather are used. A lot depends on presentation of variables and associations, interactions, often with different types of error. There are many good books on statistics used in psychology and economics that explain these various aspects of using and presenting statistics (see recommended reading references note below for some books I like).

The case in point is that it would be interesting to examine further, by including in the graph, on the same scale, increasing poverty both in and out of work, but also still illustrating the massive increase of in-work poverty. This would help to illustrate both problems at the same time. That is, in and out of work poverty are both increasing in the UK. This is also quite possibly the case in many countries around the world that are currently praising themselves on falling official unemployment figures, bearing in mind many countries such as UK also use manipulate statistics to try to show unemployment as much lower than it actually is.

OECD forecasts, based on recent trends, inequality rising and GDP growth slowing in spite of population growth increasing:

Disguised unemployment, making official figures appear not anywhere near as bad as they really are still exists just its not featured in official figures, along with an enormous growth of underemployment, much lower job security and falling incomes of lower to middle incomes in many countries, but especially those following ‘Austerity’ policies such as UK. So Prof. Stiglitz in a lecture on the reality of US along with most of developed world, especially North Atlantic bordering countries, but with macroeconomic linkages throughout the world, still being in a Great Depression (24:00 in video) UK is even worse, but all are in a Great Depression.

The North Atlantic malaise: failures in economic policy

“not just a lost decade, but unless anything is done we could be talking about a lost quarter century..”

References

Joseph Rowntree Foundation website

Recommended reading references for books on statistics:

My favourite books on statistics, especially relevant for psychology, include one of my recent set books Andy Field, ‘Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics’ (4th Ed) (2013) Published by Sage and available as a book or on Kindle. Also the heavy weight book Barbara G. Tabachnick and Linda S. Fidell ‘Using Multivariate Statistics’ (2013) Published by Pearson.