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EHRC Wales 08/06/11 Bill Kerry from

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Presentation on theme: "EHRC Wales 08/06/11 Bill Kerry from"— Presentation transcript:

1 EHRC Wales 08/06/11 Bill Kerry from

2 * How unequal is the UK? * Recent trends in UK inequality (and the focus on poverty) * The health and social impact of inequality (why are we so sensitive to inequality?) * Inequality: at work and in your community - qualitative factors - stress and job control - quantitative factors - working hours and productivity - contextual factors - kicking down and lashing out * The importance of trust * What can we all do about this? (Parts 1 & 2)

3 How much richer are the richest 20% than the poorest 20%? Source: Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level (2009)

4 Trends in income inequality /6 (Gini coefficient, Great Britain.) Brewer M, Goodman A, Muriel A, Sibieta L. Poverty and Inequality in the UK: Institute of Fiscal Studies, London.

5 Index of: Life expectancy Math & Literacy Infant mortality Homicides Imprisonment Teenage births Trust Obesity Mental illness – incl. drug & alcohol addiction Social mobility Health and Social Problems are Worse in More Unequal Countries Source: Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level (2009)

6 Why are we so sensitive to inequality? The key psychosocial risk factors for ill health are: LOW SOCIAL STATUS: exacerbated in highly unequal societies with steep social hierarchies, diminished in more equal societies with less hierarchy WEAK SOCIAL AFFILIATIONS: capacity for social affiliation is undermined by poor health (eg: loss of facility and general confidence about social interaction), poor education and low levels of trust STRESS IN EARLY LIFE (pre- and post-natal): see pages of the paperback version of The Spirit Level

7 Stress and the determinants of health: The Whitehall Studies (1967 onwards) * Whitehall 1 (male civil servants) * Whitehall 2 (male and female civil servants) Of all the factors that the Whitehall researchers have studied over the years, job stress and people's sense of control over their work seem to make the most difference [to health]. (p.75, The Spirit Level) There is a social gradient in health running right across society, and where we are placed in relation to other people matters; those above us have better health, those below us have worse health, from the very bottom to the very top. (p.76, The Spirit Level)

8 Source: Bowles S, Park Y. Economic Journal 2005; 115 (507): F397–F Working hours are longer in more unequal countries

9 Inequality and productivity A recent independent report* for the Treasury found that: A wide range of academic studies [...] suggest there is a strong correlation between narrower pay dispersion within an organisation and improved organisation performance [...] wide gaps between top and bottom pay within an organisation harm performance [...] there will be gains to morale and productivity in organisations where everyone is seen to be paid according to their contribution * Hutton Review of Fair Pay in the Public Sector; Final Report (HM Treasury, March 2011).

10 Income inequality and other forms of prejudice Bigger differences in material wealth makes status differences more important, and in more unequal societies the weight of downward prejudice is bound to be heavier; there is more social distance between the haves at the very top and the have-nots at the bottom. In effect, greater inequality increases downward social prejudices. We maintain social status by showing superiority to those below. Those deprived of status try to regain it by taking it out on more vulnerable people below them. (p.166, The Spirit Level, paperback edition)

11 Inequality therefore creates a conducive environment for racism, sexism and all forms of prejudice to fester and grow as people attempt to shore up their precarious position in our steep social hierarchy. For example: … research shows that the health of ethnic minority groups who live in areas with more people like themselves is sometimes better than that of their more affluent counterparts who live in areas with more of the dominant ethnic group. This is called a group density effect and was first shown in relation to mental illness. (p.168, The Spirit Level, paperback edition) Bigger income differences seem to solidify the social structure and decrease the chances of upward mobility. Where there are greater inequalities of income, equal opportunity is a significantly more distant prospect. (p.169, The Spirit Level, paperback edition)

12 Levels of Trust are Higher in More Equal Rich Countries Source: Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level (2009)

13 What can we all do about this? (Part 1) Key points to think about * Recognise the primary importance of inequality and relative deprivation. Its not just about poverty – that runs the risk of leaving the better off out of the debate about policy solutions. Feed this message back into all your networks. Tell everyone you know (buy someone The Spirit Level as a gift!). * Be aware that the traditional social justice argument for tackling inequality is now boosted by hard evidence showing inequality to be socially harmful for almost everyone in society. Make this argument at every opportunity. * The effects of high levels of health and social problems, caused by income inequality, will impact directly in the workplaces and in the communities where you work. * Understand that a high level of income inequality in a society will increase the amount of all other forms of discrimination as people scramble to compete and shore up their social position.

14 What can we all do about this? (Part 2) Key actions * Review pay structures within any organisations you may be involved with (including your employer, your union etc!) - seek to boost low pay AND curb high pay wherever you can - always stress the link between the two. * Implement an audit of your spending - and that of your organisation(s) - favour co-operative, employee-owned and mutual suppliers which tend to have lower pay differentials. * Join or affiliate with The Equality Trust to campaign for a halving of income inequality in the UK. Help us grow the necessary social movement.

15 For more information: a book … a website … and the only dedicated, independent campaign to halve income inequality in the UK… PLEASE JOIN US! - Become a supporter - Join or form a local group

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