What is it?
The Fairness Index uses a set of external indicators to track the state of fairness in the UK linked to the five fair necessities, and to identify and communicate ways in which our society and economy is unfair.
The main objective of producing this index is to increase the salience of issues related to fairness in the UK and to focus media, policy-making and public attention on them.
The ultimate goal is to change the narrative around the overarching issues, so as to increase the level of support for policy changes that will help to build a fairer society and economy in the UK.
A secondary objective is to provide a credible analytical tool that will help the Fairness Foundation and other organisations both to track progress or its absence (overall and on specific thematic issues or aspects such as public attitudes), and to communicate the key issues and ideas to a wider audience.
The Fair Necessities
The index focuses on the five fair necessities: fair opportunities, fair rewards, fair exchange, fair essentials and fair treatment. For each of the five ‘fair necessities’, the index features three headline indicators that are produced by other organisations, and that allow us to assess the extent to which the ‘fair necessity’ in question has been achieved in the UK. The headline indicators are chosen on the basis that they are relevant, robust, updated regularly, and (if possible) can be broken down by geography, socio-economic grouping, gender, race and disability.
What it measures
The index does not ‘rank’ the UK alongside other countries (although it does provide international comparisons where available) and does not attempt to ‘score’ the extent to which the UK has achieved the five ‘fair necessities’. Instead, it uses the headline indicators (and a wider set of supporting indicators) to provide quantitative support for a series of qualitative arguments about the extent to which we live in a fair society.
The index does not involve any primary research (other than some opinion polling). Instead, it is a work of synthesis that draws together a broad range of indicators that are not frequently seen in the same place, allowing for easy analysis by a range of demographic breakdowns as well as for comparisons over time.
For many of the indicators, year-on-year changes are likely to be fairly small, but the index will probably focus its qualitative analysis in future years on those indicators that have changed the most, or are most noteworthy for other reasons.
A focus on fairness
Our aim is to provide compelling evidence about how various inequalities in the UK are unfair, in ways that resonate with the public, media and politicians, to increase awareness, change narratives, and ultimately change policies. As Ben Baumberg Geiger said: “If people are to be convinced that there is unfairness that demands action, then we not only need to show inequities in life chances, but that these violate the threshold of what is acceptable. And it is this that most conventionally-presented statistical coefficients fail to do.”
The index highlights regional and economic inequalities, which are the most salient because they are the most obvious, but one of its core goals is to increase the salience of other inequalities (e.g. health or race) and causes of unfairness (e.g. poverty) by drawing attention to their existence, their severity and the extent to which they are unfair.
Another goal is to highlight where unequal outcomes are unfair because they are the result of unequal opportunities, and to tease out the nature and severity, the causes and the consequences of each type of unfairness, and of how they relate to one another.
The geographic coverage of the index is variable depending on the availability of data for each indicator and issue. To the extent that it is possible, the index covers the whole of the UK, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, in some cases there are issues with data availability or comparability between England and the other nations of the UK. As a result, some indicators contain data for England only, or focus on England alongside broadly comparable data for the other countries of the UK. Where regional breakdowns are included, they are normally at regional level, occasionally down to local authority. The index is not designed to provide detailed local information or to focus primarily on regional inequalities, just as it is not designed to compare the UK to other countries (as outlined above).
The availability of detailed breakdowns for specific groups, including ethnic minorities, disabled people, and sometimes gender, is patchy. For example, sample sizes are often too small to be able to provide accurate data on specific ethnic minorities. In addition, breakdowns are very rarely available for other protected characteristics such as religion or sexual orientation (which are themes that are hardly reflected at all in this index, but are issues that we would like to focus on more in the future).
Several of our focus issues are not represented in the index’s headline indicators (justice, social security and democracy). This is because, despite our best efforts, it was not possible to identify suitable headline indicators for these issues that were sufficiently robust and that adequately captured one of the ‘fair necessities’. For example, we would have liked to include an indicator for ‘fair treatment’ on the extent to which economic inequality translates into political inequality through wealth distorting the democratic process, but the underlying data does not exist.
For more discussion about data gaps and how they can be filled, see the section on the missing data.
The reader can drill down in the statistics sections to see the source of the headline indicators and more detailed information (such as absolute numbers behind the metrics, regional, economic and/or ethnic breakdowns where available, as well as data for previous years). The index provides whichever of the following breakdowns for each headline indicator are available:
- Economic (showing variations between income or wealth deciles, or by deprivation or disadvantage)
- Regional (showing variations between English regions and countries of the UK)
- International (showing variations between the UK and OECD countries for the same/similar metrics)
- Racial (showing variations between ethnic groups)
- Gender (showing variations between men and women)
- Disability (showing variations between disabled and non-disabled people)
- Age (showing variations between people of different ages)
- Family or household type (showing variations between people in different types of household)
- Related but slightly different metrics, if relevant (e.g. hourly pay, income inequality, life expectancy)
A wide range of experts have been consulted on the design and development of the index. These include policy experts from academia, think tanks and NGOs on all the relevant issues, and experts in areas such as statistics, economics, politics, philosophy, attitudinal research, data visualisation, advocacy and communications. They have been consulted on a one-to-one basis on the overall index design and on specific indicators.