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Cost-of-living crisis could exacerbate social divide in UK, scholar warns
Last Updated: 2022-08-26 09:01 | Xinhua
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The cost-of-living crisis in the United Kingdom (UK) could exacerbate social division, furthering the divide between the country's rich and poor, a leading London-based academic has warned.
"There is a lot of evidence that the cost-of-living crisis is becoming more prolific and more serious," public policy expert and associate professor Dr. Patrick Diamond from Queen Mary University of London told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
It is less clear whether the crisis will change society, but it is certainly going to accelerate and deepen some of the divisions in the country, Diamond said.
"It doesn't necessarily directly change society, but obviously it does raise a lot of questions about social cohesion when you have some groups who are facing these kinds of cost-of-living pressures, the rise in poverty and so on," he said.
Inflation in Britain has hit successive new highs since the winter of 2021. The latest figures show that the consumer price index (CPI) surged by 10.1 percent in the 12 months to July, the highest level in 40 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
But wage increases have failed to catch up. After taking inflation into account, real pay among employees between April and June this year fell at the fastest pace in more than two decades, the ONS said.
On a day-to-day basis, some people are already spending less on goods and services, eating out less or using fewer leisure facilities, Diamond said, noting that there are lots of anecdotes about greater use of food banks and child poverty in terms of children not getting access to school meals.
An ONS survey published last month said three-quarters of adults in the UK have reported being very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living.
"Certainly, the cost-of-living crisis is growing in its visibility, and no doubt this will continue over the next few months. We haven't yet hit winter."
Indeed, the situation may get much worse this coming winter due to a widely anticipated huge increase in the energy price cap in October.
Higher energy prices are expected to push the UK's inflation to 13 percent in the fourth quarter of the year and inflation is likely to remain at very elevated levels throughout much of 2023, the Bank of England said earlier this month.
Pensioners, who rely more on energy use in winter to heat their houses, and benefit claimants will be the hardest hit by the soaring energy costs, Diamond said.
He underlined that two-parent households on middle to high incomes with children also face significant pressure because their discretionary budgets are not that large, and the huge increases in energy costs will eat into their family budgets.
An analysis conducted by the charity Citizens Advice last week showed that one in four people in the UK will not be able to afford their energy bills in October, and the figure could jump to one in three people next January.
Diamond also stressed the importance of more targeted support for low-income people in London due to the much higher housing and living costs there.
"This is going to have a disproportionate impact on London," he said. "There needs to be a recognition that there are many low-income people living in London and the energy crisis is going to hit them hard."
To tackle the worsening cost-of-living crisis, the UK government announced a support package in May, including sending a one-off payment directly to the lowest-income households.
However, research by Ipsos showed last week that two-thirds of Britons say the UK government is not providing enough support on the cost of living, up from around half who said the same in late May this year. 

(Editor:Wang Su)

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Cost-of-living crisis could exacerbate social divide in UK, scholar warns
Source:Xinhua | 2022-08-26 09:01
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