How problems reinforce each other

Unfairness builds on itself in two ways. Firstly, many people suffer from multiple sources of disadvantage at the same time. Secondly, fewer opportunities at one stage in life often fuel a vicious circle in which future life chances are even more limited. The social contract has been broken down by this 'compound unfairness', and by the fact that our economy subsidises the wealthy rather than investing in those who need support.

These problems don’t exist in isolation; they work together and feed off each other, trapping those at the bottom of our society in a cycle of deprivation and disadvantage. And the unfairness trickles up to affect millions of families, who see the next generation struggling to find adequate jobs and housing and anxious about a future of economic insecurity and climate breakdown. The social contract, whereby those who work hard can expect a decent quality of life in return, has broken down.

Our economy often subsidises those who don’t need help at the expense of those who do, making it ever harder for those who fall behind to make up lost ground. For example, our social security system subsidises employers paying poverty wages and landlords charging high rents. If the underlying market failures were tackled, this money could instead be used to help to improve life chances for everyone. Correcting these imbalances is not a pipe dream, because we see examples in other countries of how societies and economies are structured in a fairer way that rewards hard work while providing a basic minimum quality of life for everyone and ensuring that everyone has genuine opportunities in life.