To build a fairer society, we need a definition of fairness that most people can get behind. But people have different ideas of what constitutes fairness, often grounded in their political beliefs and moral values.
The Fair Necessities sets out our vision, which is based on principles that attract support from a majority of people across all sectors of society. It is focused on delivering equal life chances for children and a fair deal for adults, with the aim of rewarding hard work while 'designing out' bad luck that is outside people's control.
The five fair necessities
Everyone is rewarded in proportion to their effort and talents*
* Exceptional rewards are only fair if they correspond to a universally accepted exceptional performance or contribution.
Everyone has the same substantive opportunities to realise their potential**
** This requires radical steps to remove structural barriers that face people born into disadvantaged circumstances, effectively by ‘designing out bad luck’.
Everyone contributes to society as far as they can, and is supported by society when they need it
Everyone has their basic needs met so that no one lives in poverty
Everyone is treated equally in terms of due process, respect, social status, political influence and public services***
*** Some people (or regions) need to be treated differently (equity) to have the same opportunities as everyone else. This is the idea behind levelling up.
We don’t have a common understanding of fairness, and this is holding us back as a society. The five Fair Necessities, uniting the insights of different traditions so as to provide a new lens through which to remake the world, offer an original way for us to rebuild our society – drawing the sting of unfair inequalities and opening the way for all of us to live lives that we have reason to value.
WILL HUTTON President of the Academy of Social Sciences
I hope The Fair Necessities will kick start a much-needed urgent debate on how we build a more equal, truly fair society. It raises important issues that are worthy of discussion and further exploration and that should be central to any ‘levelling up’ agenda.
BARONESS RUTH LISTER Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University
A full understanding of where the public are on fairness and inequality is absolutely vital, as there are many wrong assumptions and misunderstandings that are real barriers to policy interventions. This report is an excellent counter to that, combining a deep understanding of the theory with the reality of where the public are – and therefore provides a really valuable framework for action.
PROFESSOR BOBBY DUFFY Director of the Policy Institute at King's College London
Everyone thinks a prerequisite of being a good society is being a fair society. But abstract talk about fairness can obscure as much as enlighten. So this renewed focus on clarifying what fairness means and asking whether Britain lives up to it is an important new contribution to this much older debate.
TORSTEN BELL Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation
Fairness matters to us all, though we have different views of what we mean by it. This thoughtful investigation into competing conceptions of fairness gets the Fairness Foundation off to a strong start in its commitment to engage across social groups and political tribes, and to build a greater public consensus on how to make our society fairer for everyone.
SUNDER KATWALA Director of British Future
Inequalities pose some of the biggest social and economic challenges of our time, as set out in the IFS Deaton Review. But it is difficult to design coherent policy responses without clarifying which ones are objectionable, and in what ways. This very thoughtful and engaging document is an excellent introduction to many of the issues, and I hope it will help to stimulate debate about how we can move forward.
ROBERT JOYCE Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies
The Fairness Foundation are asking an absolutely central, essential question: what, precisely, do we think is “fair”? Their conclusions lead us squarely towards levelling-up everyone’s opportunities, and towards equipping everyone more equally so they are ready to grasp their life chances whenever they appear. They will be a new, fresh voice to invigorate a vital debate.
JOHN PENROSE MP Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum
Fairness should be at the heart of any just and equitable society. Yet today fairness can often seem few and far between. Inequality is rising, generational disparities are growing, and opportunities can be scarce. That’s why now is the perfect time for a project like the Fairness Foundation. Their guiding principles could provide a beacon that will point us towards real fairness. I hope they fare well.
MARGARET HODGE MP Labour MP for Barking and Dagenham
We are all united in our shared vision of a fair and equal society in which a person’s outcomes are never determined by factors beyond their control. The work of the Fairness Foundation will be integral to streamlining the brilliant work being done across the board by organisations, policy makers and advocates. We know that a fair society is to the benefit of us all, and the Fairness Foundation will be a much-needed voice, centring fairness as the core pillar uniting equalities work at a pivotal moment.
HALIMA BEGUM Chief Executive of the Runnymede Trust
A fairer society will benefit everyone, increasing opportunities and prosperity as well as improving wellbeing and social cohesion. We don’t hear enough voices making this argument. The Fairness Foundation looks set to make a valuable contribution by helping to build a consensus around principles that unite rather than divide us.
JAMES TIMPSON Chief Executive of the Timpson Group
The idea of equality has always been a lodestar for the left, but conceptions of fairness can unite people whatever their politics. The Fairness Foundation’s five ‘fair necessities’ are an important effort to articulate an understanding of fairness that can secure cross-party support. With this we can confront many of the huge injustices that cause such damage to Britain.
ANDREW HARROP General Secretary of the Fabian Society
This document is published under a creative commons licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK