Majority of public think British society is unfair and more must be done to tackle inequalities, says Fairness Foundation

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For more information or to set up interviews, contact Bex Gilbert at the Fairness Foundation on 07469784789 or email bex@fairnessfoundation.com

Eighty-three per cent of the British public want to reduce inequality in British society and only 27 per cent think society is fair now, according to polling commissioned by the Fairness Foundation.

“Partygate, the cost-of-living crisis, the inequalities highlighted during the pandemic - fairness is at the heart of all the big issues of today,” says Will Snell, Fairness Foundation chief executive, “but we think it also provides the common ground we need, to make things better.”

The polling, conducted by More in Common and Public First for the Fairness Foundation, showed 74 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the charity’s “fair necessities” – a set of principles aimed at creating a common understanding of fairness, and a shared language to help people come together to discuss it.

In order of most public support, they are:

  • Fair exchange - Everyone should contribute to society by paying the taxes they owe, and should be supported by society when they need it (78 per cent support)
  • Fair opportunities – Barriers that prevent people from having equal opportunities should be removed so everyone has a decent chance to succeed in life (76 per cent support)
  • Fair essentials - Everyone should have their basic needs met so no-one lives in poverty, and everyone can play a constructive role in society (76 per cent support)
  • Fair rewards - Everyone’s hard work should be rewarded on the basis of their contribution to our society and economy (71 per cent support)
  • Fair treatment - Everyone should be treated according to need, enjoying equal respect and influence on decisions made in their name (69 per cent support)

Snell says: “With the cost-of-living spiralling and a society whose eyes have been opened to inequality and unfairness during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s clear many people are looking for a new way of doing things that offers more protection to those who are struggling and fairer opportunity for all.

“Through discussions last year with a wide range of policy experts and specialists we developed these five principles. The idea is to provide a common understanding of fairness, and a common language to help us talk about it and achieve it. It’s great to see they have such clear support from such a broad cross-section of the public.”

Snell says the polling shows just how unfair people think society is now. Only 21 per cent of people polled agree everyone is treated with equal respect, no matter who they are or how much money they have. And only 14 per cent agree with the statement ‘people at the top have earned [their position], and people at the bottom have brought [their position] upon themselves’.

But the polling also showed great hope for change, and what that should be. When the polling was conducted, at the end of April, amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis, 62 per cent wanted the Government to do more to ensure people could meet their basic needs, and 68 per cent wanted the Government to make sure everyone paid their fair share of taxes.

When asked what type of political party they’d like to be governed by, the lowest proportion of respondents (17 per cent) opted for a political party focussed on paring down state intervention to the basics (the rule of law, security and fundamental rights) and leaving everything else to the free market. More popular (at 31 per cent) was a party focused on equality by redistributing resources evenly throughout society. The most popular option (supported by 52 per cent), with people of all political stripes including prospective Conservative voters, was the idea of a party that reduced inequality enough to allow fair opportunity for all.

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, and a member of the Fairness Foundation’s editorial board, says: “The most popular option with the public shows that people are hungry for something new that levels the playing field for everyone. It confirms the image of the UK public we have from a range of research that they’re mostly not free market fundamentalists that believe everything is down to the individual. But they also put a lot of store in people taking responsibility for themselves and making an effort. Taken together, this puts fairness of opportunity at the heart of what the public are looking for.”

The Fairness Foundation is a new charity inspiring people to work together across ideological and political divides to create a fairer society. Later this year the Foundation will publish the UK’s first ever fairness index, to paint a more detailed picture of how fair society is now, and suggest practical and popular solutions that can build a fairer country.

For the full polling results visit https://fairnessfoundation.com/fairness-survey. To show your support and join the conversation, message @fairnessfdn on twitter using the hashtag #fairnecessities.

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Notes to the editor

To arrange an interview with Will Snell, Chief Executive of the Fairness Foundation contact Bex Gilbert, Head of Communications, on 07469784789 or email media@fairnessfoundation.com.

The Fairness Foundation is a registered charity (charity number 1044174). The project was launched in 2021, with the aim of inspiring people around the UK to work together to create a fairer society. The Fairness Foundation is governed by a board of trustees and advised by an editorial board, and has a broad-based expert contributors network. A wide range of organisations was consulted during the scoping phase of the project in 2021.

The Fair Necessities were published in November 2021. People from across the political spectrum, including policy experts and specialists in everything from philosophy to public attitudes, were consulted in the development of the five principles.

The polling was carried out in the week of 18-22 April 2022 by Public First on behalf of More in Common for the Fairness Foundation, as part of their regular series of nationally representative online surveys. The sample size was 3,140 adults aged 15-100 across Great Britain. The full data tables (including sample sizes for all breakdowns) are available here. The public polling shows the Fair Necessities have high resonance with the public, across regions, generations, ethnicities and income groups.

Will Snell is Chief Executive of the Fairness Foundation. He has 22 years of experience of management, delivery and innovation in the non-profit and public sectors in the UK and overseas. In 2017 he set up Tax Justice UK, a sister organisation of the Tax Justice Network (TJN), before joining TJN as Director of Operations. He joined Global Witness in May 2020 as interim Chief Operating Officer before moving to the Fairness Foundation as its founding CEO in April 2021.

The Fairness Foundation was set up and is funded by the retail entrepreneur and philanthropist Julian Richer, the founder of Richer Sounds, who is a proponent of fairness, and making business work better for society.