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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Well off is the new poor
Kylie Minogue
If Kylie can have it all why can't we?
The pressure to emulate the lifestyles of the super-rich has left Britain's middle classes suffering from 'luxury fever', according to a new study.

Nearly half of those earning more than 35,000 a year said they couldn't afford items they considered "essential", such as luxury cars, cosmetic surgery and state-of-the-art homeware.

Author of the study Dr Clive Hamilton - who is a visiting scholar at Cambridge University - said the "suffering rich" felt poor and were racking up debt while losing out on quality of life.

Dr Hamilton told BBC News Online that the government's tax-cutting policies towards the middle classes were as much to blame as the modern-day media obsession with the luxury lifestyle of celebrities.

Social class

Manufacturers also had a part to play, by creating what Dr Hamilton called "entry level" products at relatively affordable prices, to give people a taste of decadence.

"You can get a Jaguar for less than 20,000 now. That is within reach for a lot of people," he said.

Working with the British Market Research Bureau, Dr Hamilton - executive director of The Australia Institute - also found that four in ten people with an income of over 50,000 a year felt deprived.

The real concerns of yesterday's poor have become the imagined concerns of today's rich
Dr Clive Hamilton

"In earlier eras people set their aspirations for their standard of living by their own social class, and the people around them.

"Television, and other media, has broken down those barriers, and people are increasingly setting their aspirations by people who lead a luxurious life."

He said it was becoming increasingly difficult for celebrities to distinguish themselves as more and more people fork out on designer labels and foreign holiday homes.

"Pinch of salt"

"How do they remain conspicuous? It's a real dilemma for them," he said.

Meanwhile British "luxury fever" sufferers are paying a high price for their lifestyle.

Credit card debt has trebled in the last seven years, along with a sharp rise in personal bankruptcies.

And a large number of people are sacrificing leisure time and time spent with family, so they can work longer hours to fund their decadent tastes.

Botox injections
Are botox injections really an essential in life?

Overconsumption and increased waste is adding to Britain's environmental problems.

"The real concerns of yesterday's poor have become the imagined concerns of today's rich," said Dr Hamilton.

"This 'deprivation syndrome' induces politicians to distort policy to reduce the burden of taxation and increase public payments to wealthy households."

He said a culture of middle-class complaint had been created, and should be taken with a "pinch of salt".

"This emphasis on the tribulations of the middle classes not only validates the preoccupation of wealthy people with their own financial circumstances, but crowds out sympathy for those who are genuinely struggling."


SEE ALSO:
'Rich list 2020' published
01 Sep 03  |  UK
Cowell tops celebrity rich list
14 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
Aniston tops celebrity power list
20 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Stardom in the 21st Century
04 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Credit card culture takes hold
27 Aug 03  |  Business
Tackle consumption, urge Fabians
17 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature


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