(en) Charles Dickens... slight return (ca)

Mon, 17 Mar 1997 16.10 GMT

FOCUS ON.... THE UNITED KINGDOM CHARLES DICKENS... SLIGHT RETURN Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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The OECD and the IMF are singing the praises of the UK government calling her global economic performance, 'enviable and the result of extremely healthy policies' and in particular praising the fall in unemployment. Such praise merits closer examination...

Perhaps the lowest on the ladder these day are the homeless. Theirs is a life of constant insecurity, often with no public assistance, in a country that saw the biggest freeze for many years this winter. The number of homeless in the UK has doubled in the last 20 years and various politicians have noted that they are unsightly for the tourists. These are the ones who cannot even afford a lottery ticket in Mr Major's Britain. ---------------------------------------------------------------- >>>>> NEW LISTS FROM A-INFOS <<<<<
You can change your subscription to a-infos and receive all messages for a 24 hour period in one post: majordomo@tao.ca subscribe a-infos24 ------------------------------------------------------------------ There is a growing crowd on the next rung up. The number of children in the country who are dependent on social benefits has risen from 7% in 1979 to 26% in 1994 and the number of people who are now officially living below the poverty line (defined as half the average income) has gone from 5m in 1977 to 13.7m today (The Guardian 25/11/96). Among these will be many of Mr Major's pensioners almost half of whom face financial hardship when they retire (Financial Times 13/2/96). It is their fault of course as Ruth Lea, the head of the policy unit of the Institute of Directors - an employers organisation - points out : "This is further evidence that people do not look ahead," she said, "If the governent is serious about lifting the burden of care costs that will be created for the tax payer it must introduce compulsory pensions". Let's hope we can all afford them so the employers won't have to be made to feel guilty when they don't want to make their contribution. ------------------------ Fact File UNITED KINGDOM

Pop. 58.0m Pop per Km sq. 238 Human Development index. 92 Av inflation. 1989-94 5.1% Main Export Destination. United States (12.9%) Budget Deficit. -16.4 $bn (world ranking: 5) Cost of Living Sept 1994 110 (New York=100) ----------------------- But the figure of 13.7m also points to the rung above it. With recorded unemployment just under the 2m mark clearly many of those in employment are on poverty wages. In industry job insecurity is growing with the possibility of extremely short dismissal periods and periods of trial employment which can extend over two years. There are no restrictions on fixed term contracts and the number of contracts that can be made between an employer and his/her employee is unlimited. In addition to this there is no fixed limit to the working week nor any right to paid holiday leave. According to the Banque Paribas (July 1996), 'In 1995 nearly 300,000 were earning less than f1.5 per hour and about 1.2m were earning less than f2.5'. International capital is wetting itself. The crypto fascists in the Referendum Party take on the garb of one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind and point at Brussells whilst Hyundai Electronics and the LG Group - both from Korea - move in to soak up a cheap labour force in European record breaking financial moves. The UK pulls in 40% of both Japanese and US investment in Europe and more than half of all Korean and Taiwanese projects. The French journal Le Monde Diplomatique (Feb 1997) interviewed an employee at a Japanese firm in Wales who works from 8 until 5 during which time she must repeat the same manoeuvre 10,000 times. This procedure can be broken down into three stages - the full operation lasts some three seconds. Most of the employees are women because men's fingers are too big. She gets about f2.00 per hour. She doesn't mind because her friends are getting f1.5. They get two ten minute breaks and then a 'long' 25 minute one. They don't ask for a wage rise or a change in working conditions. The company signed an agreement with the company union and in 17 years there hasn't been a strike. It's hardly surprising that with or without monetary union European capital is coming to the country also in order to take advantage of the low wages. They are encouraged by the Invest in Britain Bureau who explain to overseas investors that, 'regulation of working conditions is far less rigourous than in other European countries (...) overtime, team work and work on Sundays are subject to no restrictions'. One Olivier Cadic took the hint and moved his company from Calais to Kent thus saving himself over 1m FF in national insurance payments. There are others like him and they are not waiting for the Referendum Party. Indeed Goldsmith is a prime example of those who stand at the top of the ladder - the millionaires. Simply since 1992 the number has doubled to some 200,000. Surprised? Don't be. Perhaps ultimately the main aspect of Mr Major's Britain that will be mentioned in his obituary will be the introduction of the National Lottery in November 1994. This has proved so successful - it made f5.2b in 1996 - that on the 5th February it was introduced on a Wednesday to give 2 weekly draws. So far it has created some 600 millionaires - over 50% of the growth overall. The corollary of all this, of course, is that gambling is on the increase in the UK. Since 1993 the percentage of GDP devoted to gambling has more then doubled - a voluntary tax as one writer in FREEDOM called it. The new 'Wins-day' draw is expected to fill the coffers by a further 20%. As The Economist (8th February) says, 'the lottery is having a perceptible effect on the economy and, increasingly, on the election campaign'. Did we mention the election? It has been said of the National Lottery that more than 90% of the population has played it. The people know where to place their bets indeed. For their chances of climbing to the top of the ladder via the national lottery look to be a better bet than bothering to turn up on polling day to say they endorse the IMF and the OECD.

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