Meanwhile polling shows huge shift in views of voters when confronted with facts on fairness, suggesting fairness has potential to unite on need to reduce inequality
Unfairness in society costs the poorest ten per cent of people 18.5 years of healthy life, compared to the richest ten per cent, says the Fairness Foundation, launching the UK’s first ever Fairness Index today (Tuesday, October 18).
The index is the first to build a composite picture of how fair society is now and what needs to change to make it fairer.
As many struggle with the cost of living, long-term ill-health caused by Covid and rising food and fuel prices, the data shows that across society and the economy, the UK must do better to level the playing field. It shows:
- The richest 10% enjoy 18.5 more years of healthy life than the poorest 10% (1).
- More than one in five people are living in poverty (2), whilst the richest fifth of households own almost two thirds of the country’s wealth (3).
- Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are 18 months behind their peers by the time they take their GCSEs (4).
- FTSE 100 CEOs earn 79 times more than their average employee (5).
- Some people earning £10m a year pay the same tax rate (21%) as someone on £30k (6).
- Health state life expectancies by national deprivation deciles, England: 2018 to 2020 (ONS)
- Measuring poverty before the Covid-19 pandemic, Social Metrics Commission (2022)
- Wealth and Assets Survey (ONS, 2022)
- Education in England: Annual Report 2020 (Education Policy Institute, 2020)
- CEO pay survey 2022: CEO pay surges 39% (High Pay Centre, 2022)
- How much tax do the rich really pay? (Warwick/LSE, 2020)
The indicators used in the index test British society against the five elements of the ‘Fair Necessities’, the Fairness Foundation’s definition of fairness, which polling earlier this year showed has the support of 74% of the public. They define a fair society as one where everyone has the essentials for a dignified life, access to opportunity, fair rewards for their work and fair treatment. Finally, they express the idea of fair exchange – that society supports us when we need it and we each make a contribution to society, including by paying our taxes.
“Do we live in a fair society?” asks Will Snell, CEO of the Fairness Foundation. “Until now, for many people, the answer has been more of a gut feeling than something tangible. Our index combines statistics with arguments about their causes and consequences, survey data, stories and solutions, to paint a picture of a deeply unfair society. It explains why society has become unfair, and suggests ways to make it fairer.”
“We must make the essentials more affordable, make jobs better and the opportunities that lead to jobs more accessible to all. And we must tax wealth more fairly,” says Snell, adding polling done in conjunction with the launch of the index showed that when faced with the facts, many people change their views about whether we live in a fair society or not
In the polling, the Fairness Foundation asked one group for their ‘gut feeling’ on how fair society is now, with 39 per cent saying they thought it was unfair. They showed a second group the stats from the Fairness Index and then asked the same question. This time 66 per cent thought society was unfair –27 per cent more than the first group. The biggest swings were among older age groups, people in lower socio-economic grades, and Conservative or Leave voters.
Entrepreneur Graham Hobson, co-founder of successful start-up Photobox, is now a campaigner for higher taxes on wealthy people like himself, to fund vital public services and create an economy and society that helps entrepreneurship flourish.
He says: “I didn’t create Photobox in a vacuum. First of all I had the huge help of being educated in the 1980s and given a free university education. And when it came to creating Photobox I was able to hire a well-educated, healthy workforce, in a society that had already made significant investment in infrastructure and in an economy and tax framework that enabled investment in business with high levels of trust.
“People today have too much struggle and not enough influence. I’m not anti-capitalist but I think policies are to blame for too much influence and wealth in the hands of a small number of people and when that happens society becomes distrustful and fractured.”
“Research shows that improving fairness strengthens democracy, the economy and society as a whole,” concludes Snell. “Our index is a wake-up call to politicians and the broader public to reprioritise what we really value when measuring progress. Those of us who are comfortable could be far more honest about the factors that contributed to our position in life, acknowledging the role of luck. And we should call out corrosive and divisive narratives, like the misconceived idea that those who aren’t as successful haven’t tried hard enough.”
The Fairness Index is freely available at https://www.fairness.org.uk.
Notes to the editor
To arrange an interview with Will Snell, Chief Executive of the Fairness Foundation, or Graham Hobson, co-founder of Photobox, contact Bex Gilbert, Head of Communications, on 07469784789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fairness Foundation is an advocacy project and 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 network of over 50 expert contributors. A wide range of people and organisations were 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.
In April 2022 the Fairness Foundation commissioned polling by Public First and More in Common into public perceptions of what a fair society is, with 74% of the public agreeing with the five ‘fair necessities’: everyone should be able to afford the essentials, everyone should receive fair rewards for their hard work and contribution to society, everyone should have access to opportunities, everyone should expect fair treatment, and everyone should contribute to society as far as they can, and be supported by it when needed (fair exchange).
A second round of polling was carried out in August 2022 by Public First and More in Common for the Fairness Foundation, as part of their regular series of nationally representative online surveys. This included the ‘gut feeling’ polling data cited above. The sample size was 2,010 adults across Great Britain.
The Fairness Index is an online tool to examine and explain the nature, causes and consequences of the key inequalities in the UK. It is aimed at a general audience, but is also designed to help social change organisations build support for their goals by explaining how and why the problems that they seek to address are unfair. It examines five key gaps in British society, linked to the ‘fair necessities’. For each, it looks at the gaps between rich and poor and between different groups, and the gaps between reality and public perceptions and preferences. It puts the statistics into context and explains why the gaps are unfair, how they reinforce each other, and what can be done about them. As well as the headline indicators, the index contains detailed context in five areas: additional statistics (such as regional and group breakdowns), the substance of the issues (causes and consequences), real-life stories, survey data on public attitudes, and the solutions to build a fairer society.
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, followed by senior leadership roles at the Tax Justice Network and Global Witness, before launching the Fairness Foundation in 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.