Undoing media myths
Here is a collection of statistics for refuting
common media fallacies eg: that unemployment
costs more than the military; that jobs cure poverty, etc.
On this page:
Military spending >
Corporate welfare >
Tax avoidance/fraud >
Long working hours >
Death by work >
Work is no cure for poverty >
Causes of death >
Falling disease threat >
Low crime threat >
Low terrorism threat >
Britain is a long way behind America in military spending,
but still one of the five biggest military spenders:
Annual military budget (US$ billions)
The development cost for just one fighter jet (the US F-22)
was $63 billion, more than enough to eliminate global starvation,
according to WGI
figures quoted by Unesco.
for Defense Information, 2003).
The annual cost of welfare in Britain is about £100
billion. The tabloid media blame this high cost on the "workshy",
but most of it goes on pensions:
Annual cost (£ billions)
Job Seekers Allowance: 2.3
Housing benefit: 4.1
Income Support: 6.5
Child benefit: 8.8
Benefits for disabled: 10.8
Contribution-based pensions: 42.1
(Smaller costs include winter fuel
payments for the elderly, at £1.7bn, etc. Source: Department
for Work and Pensions, 2003)
America spends $175 billion per year
on corporate welfare. Much of it takes the form of tax breaks:
Corporate tax welfare 1996-2000
General Electric: 12
General Motors: 3.6
(British businesses also receive billions
in welfare handouts from the Department for Trade and
Industry. The DTI is basically a corporate dole office. Source
for tax welfare figures: Citizens
for Tax Justice)
Tax avoidance & fraud
When it comes to swindling, "dole cheats" aren't
the biggest drain on the UK economy:
Estimated annual cost (£ billions):
Corporate tax avoidance: 85
Business fraud: 14
Government fraud in Whitehall: 5
Tobacco smuggling: 3.5
VAT fraud on mobile phones: 2.5
Total welfare fraud: 2
Jobseekers Allowance fraud: 0.19
Bulldozer smuggling: 0.15
(Sources, respectively: Guardian, 12/4/02;
BBC Radio 4, 'Today', 23/8/01; BBC Radio 4 News, 1996; Guardian
17/12/99; BBC Radio 4, 'Today', 3/7/03; DWP, 2003; The Informal
Economy, by Lord Grabiner, March 2000; Guardian, 25/8/01)
Long Working hours
Working hours have risen in the last 20 years, on
average, for UK full-time workers. This reverses a 150-year
trend of declining working hours.
UK government research shows 1 in 6 people working
more than 60 hours per week.
Each year workers are giving £23 billion in
free labour to their bosses, due to unpaid overtime.
(Sources: UK Labour Force Survey, 1999;
Guardian, 30 Aug 2002; Press Association, Feb 26 2004)
Death by Work
People with stressful jobs are twice as likely to
die from heart disease, according to a 2002 study in the British
Long-term job strain is worse for your heart than
gaining 40lbs in weight or ageing 30 years, according to a
2003 US study.
Going into work when you feel ill (taking no sick
leave) doubles the risk of heart disease for 35%-40% of the
Work kills more than war. Approximately two million
workers die annually due to occupational injuries and illnesses,
according to a United Nations report. This is more than double
the figure for deaths from warfare (650,000 deaths per year).
Work kills more people than alcohol and drugs together.
(Sources: British Medical Journal, 19
Oct 2002; American Journal of Epidemiology, 2003; BBC2, The
Money Programme, 1 Dec 2004; UN ILO SafeWork programme, April
Work is no cure for poverty
The number of people in work is at "record levels"
according to the UK government. Meanwhile, official UK figures
show 22% of people living in poverty, compared to 13% in 1979.
47% of employees have wages that, on their own, are
insufficient to avoid poverty. 42% of employees rely on means
other than their own wages to avoid poverty.
In the 1970s and 1980s, around 4% of low-paid employees
lived in poverty. Currently, 14% of low-paid employees live
in poverty. (5% of all employees now live in poverty).
Since the early 1970s GDP (national income) has doubled,
but in real terms (ie allowing for inflation) the bottom 10%
of jobs pay less now than in 1970. The minimum wage would
have to be around £6.50 per hour to bring low-pay up
to the 1970 level.
DWP press release, Nov 2004; poverty.org.uk;
Rowntree Foundation study, Nov 2004; Guardian, 14 Jun
Causes of death
Following figures for England & Wales, 2002 - from
the Office for National Statistics.
Total deaths (all causes): 535,356
Deaths from heart disease/stroke: 209,948
Deaths from cancer: 140,453
Deaths from pneumonia: 32,769
Deaths from HIV disease: 197
Total deaths by accident: 10,714
Deaths by transport related accident: 6,459
Deaths by accidental falls: 2,511
Deaths by accidental poisoning: 1,648
Total deaths by suicide/intentional self-harm: 3,319
Total deaths by assault: 385
Deaths by "rifle, shotgun or large firearm":
Deaths by "other/unspecified firearm": 24
Deaths by "sharp object": 118
Deaths by "hanging, strangulation and suffocation":
Falling disease threat
A century ago there were 20 times as many deaths
from sexually transmitted diseases.
In the middle ages there were 130 times as many deaths
from infectious diseases.
(Source: Equinox, Channel 4, 13 April
Low crime threat
The risk of becoming a victim of crime is at an historic
low, according to the authoritative British
The murder rate in Britain today is roughly the same
as in the mid-19th century.
For every one person murdered today, ten were murdered
in the middle ages.
One in three elderly women feels "very unsafe",
but fewer than one in 4,000 will be assaulted.
The number of children murdered by strangers (in Britain)
averages below 10 a year.
The chances of a child aged 1-4 being killed by a
stranger are less than one in a million, and have fallen by
a third since 1988.
Independent, 25 Sept 1996; Equinox, Channel 4, 13 April 1999;
Times, 11 Sept 1996; Guardian, 2 Aug 1999)
Low terrorism threat
US State Department figures show that terrorism is at its
lowest level in 35 years. Don't take our word for it:
State Department terrorism graphs >
(Their first graph shows the total number of international
terrorist attacks to be at its lowest since 1982. The second
graph shows number of attacks by region. For all regions except
the Middle East, there were less terrorist attacks in 2003
than in 1999).