The profile and depth of poverty in the UK has changed considerably
There is an ongoing debate about how to define poverty, and we need better data (see this recent post from the Resolution Foundation for a discussion of both issues). Nonetheless, some major changes in the nature of poverty in the UK over recent years are clearly visible. In particular, the number of people in ‘deep’ poverty or destitution has risen sharply over the last two decades, with especially pronounced rises among families with three or more children, lone-parent families and households including a disabled person. Since 2007/08, people in deep poverty have suffered a substantial reduction in average incomes, whilst people closer to the poverty line have seen modest increases. The numbers of people in deep poverty are set to increase further over the coming months due to the ever-increasing cost of living.
Many people are paid less than others because of who they are
Ethnic minority workers earn on average 2% less than similarly qualified white employees, although after controlling for differences like age and education, the gap is about 10%. The gap can’t simply be explained by ethnic minority workers being employed by firms that pay lower wages, because this pay gap also exists within organisations. The only apparent explanation for this gap is that ethnic minority workers are being treated and paid unfairly. [Another report found that the ethnicity pay gap has not changed much in 25 years, and that for black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and women, pay gaps with white men and women have widened. The government has recently backtracked on an earlier promise to require large companies to report on their ethnicity pay gap. There are also significant pay gaps for women and disabled people (statistics). Pay gaps are usually reported on in terms of hourly pay, which is a simpler way of assessing fairness in terms of reward for effort, but in structural terms it is more illuminating to compare weekly pay, which takes into account differences in individuals’ or groups’ ability to work and the availability of work; gaps in terms of weekly pay are generally much higher than gaps in terms of hourly pay.]
Health inequalities left certain groups more vulnerable to COVID
The pandemic has shown the huge differences in the health of people of working age based on their wealth; under-65s in the poorest 10% of areas in England were almost four times likely to die from COVID than those in the richest. Disabled people, ethnic minority communities, care home residents, prisoners, homeless people and people suffering from sexual exploitation have faced particular challenges. Non-health issues such as poverty, poor housing, poor quality work and struggling public services all worsened the impact of the pandemic, whether by increasing some people’s exposure to the virus or by making them (and our society and economy as a whole) more vulnerable to its effects.
Support for disabled children and their parents is patchy at best
Parents of disabled children face many challenges that affect their child’s development by adversely affecting their time, resilience, finances and / or choices. Support for families at the point where a disability is diagnosed is inconsistent, and securing financial support afterwards (in the form of Disability Living Allowance) involves navigating a complicated and stressful application process. There are limited numbers of available accessible places and services, and this often leads parents to choose disability-friendly places that can lead to exclusion for disabled children, whose development can be harmed by not having the opportunity to socialise with their non-disabled peers.
Participation and representation is affected by socio-economic status
Politics is dominated by people with more education and social and economic capital. As a result, it is not genuinely representative of everyone in Britain, and it is particularly unrepresentative of people with fewer economic resources and lower social status, as well as in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability and so on. There is also plenty of evidence that democratic participation (such as voting rates in general elections) is lower among more disadvantaged groups and in more unequal societies, although it is hard to tease out the extent to which this is reflective of a lack of ‘equal consideration’, i.e. the denial of fair opportunities for certain groups to participate in the democratic process.