'Sharper disparities' in inequality despite benefits of globalisation, Bank of England Governor says

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney Credit: ITV News

The Governor of the Bank of England has said the UK is facing "sharper disparities" in inequality despite wider global growth, but monetary policy is not to blame.

In his first major speech since the week following the Brexit vote, Mark Carney said many citizens in advanced economies like the UK are facing heightened uncertainty despite "aggregate" global progress, which is putting public support for open markets "under threat".

"The picture in the UK is complex but in general suggests relatively stable but high levels of overall inequality with sharper disparities emerging in recent times for the top 1%.

"When combined with low growth of incomes and entrenched in inter-generational inequality, it is no wonder that many question their prospects," he said in a speech delivered at the Liverpool John Moores University on Monday.

The 51-year-old noted that the less well-off and millennials are some of the hardest hit by income and wealth inequalities.

Millennials in their 20s are on average earning £8,000 less than their predecessors, Mr Carney said.

Adding that those in their 60s have seen their incomes rise at five times the rate of the rest of the population as a whole since 2007. He also pointed to "older homeowners and younger renters".

Inequality and globalisation follows in the footsteps of a financial crisis which has reduced p[productivity levels across the country. Nine years after the crisis, UK productivity levels are 16% lower on aggregate.

However, had the Bank of England not intervened, the situation would currently be much worse, Mr Carney warned, saying that average wages would be around £2,000 lower and an extra 1.5 million people would be out of work.

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In his speech the Canadian also criticised aspects of globalisation and free trade, but warned: "Turning our backs on open markets would be a tragedy, but it is a possibility, and it is a threat that can only be averted by confronting the underlying reasons for it upfront."

Mr Carney continued: "Globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities", instead calling for a more "inclusive" global growth model to benefit more people.

"For free trade to benefit all requires some redistribution.

"We need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation."

Mr Carney suggested that this could be done by turning back the tide of stateless organisations, stating: "Companies must pay tax somewhere."

Insisting: "World trade makes countries as a whole better off."

Monetary policy has been the salvation, not the illness, of the UK economy, Mr Carney continued.

The Bank has embarked on controversial measures including ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing, since the crisis, having cut rates to a record low of 0.25% in August as part of a post-Brexit stimulus package, Mr Carney said.

He continued: "Monetary policy will continue its good work as the UK economy adjusts to new opportunities with Europe and the rest of the world.

"In the end, monetary policy isn't a spectre but a friendly ghost."

The governor credited monetary policy for having helped create 2.5 million jobs, increase wages 17%, and raising real gross domestic product (GDP) by 15%.

"People haven't been made poorer; rather across major income and wealth categories they are better off, and at the margin, surprisingly, income inequality has fallen a bit."

But anxieties are still high, because real wages are still below where they were 10 years ago, and productivity is still lagging.

Mr Carney said governmental policies will be key in boosting UK prosperity.

"The Chancellor's recent Autumn Statement begins the process of rebalancing policies. While fiscal prudence will continue, the degree of fiscal drag will be reduced somewhat, and major investments in the structural drivers of productivity."