Dividends are the portion of profits which companies pay out to shareholders instead of investing in expansion, holding the money in reserve, or handing it over in the guise of top bosses' pay and bonuses.
Dividends paid out in 2012 will total around £78.6 billion (Financial Times, 22 October). This is a 16% increase on 2011, and to a level way above the pre-crisis in 2007.
Some dividends go to pension funds, which in held 5.1 per cent by value of UK shares, and some pension funds pay out to working-class people, But even in pension funds the big pay-outs go to the well-off; and it is only 5.1% of the share value which they hold (on the latest official figures, from 2010).
The great bulk of dividend payments go to the rich. Their total in one year, almost £80 billion, is about twice the total reduction in all annual government spending (including cuts in military spending, which socialists do not object to) which the Government plans to achieve by 2015.