Ringraziamo i nostri fratelli della neonata “Byron Society for Peace and Democracy” di Londra per questo articolo, che vi proponiamo in lingua inglese.
Being the capital city of a developed first world country, people tend to ignore or forget that those who are at the lower end of income distribution likely have a lower standard of living. A study conducted in 2016 by the Department of Work and Pensions shows that, after housing costs have been taken in consideration, the number of people living in relative poverty in the whole of the UK to be 21% of the population. This social problem has haunted the land of Albion for years; by the end of the 19th century, only 75 % of the population had enough money to buy food, clothes, rent and fuel. Millions of population lived in unhuman conditions such bands and badly built houses. Fortunately, those without waged employment were helped by the poor law administration, but these unfortunate people still lived in overcrowded area in which the spread of diseases was certain. In the 50s it was believed that poverty had been “abolished” in Britain. However between the 50s and 60s there was an insurgence in poverty yet again, between 4% and 12% of the population was estimated to be living under the Supplementary Benefits’ scale. This eternal existence of poverty led to a significant difference of health in the classes. Between 1964 and 1965 the rate of infant deaths was more than half if not much higher in the lowest classes than in the upper ones. Low pay was a the main cause of poverty, with a report of TUC (Trades Union Congress) in 68 finding that 5 million females and 2.5 million males earned less than 15£ per week. Between the 1960s and 1970s progress was made, with 3 million families living in poverty in Britain in 1977, compared with 5 million families living in poverty in 1961. But the level of poverty started to increase yet again between 1979 and 1985, the number of UK citizens living in poverty increased from 2,090,000 to 2,420,000. This high poverty level as been attributed to the low generosity of the welfare state, the British social security system follows the notion of market dominance and private provision. The government enters in action only to “moderate” extreme poverty and provide for basic needs. As of today the situation hasn’t gotten better, with the most recent study of the New Policy Institute conducted in 2017 showing the 27% of Londoners live in poverty (six percentage points higher than the rest of England) 58% of whom are in a working family.
I want to end this article with the last stanza of the poem “London” by William Blake:
“But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse”