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Increasing health, wealth, and education inequalities mean that more people at the margins of society struggle. The gap between the haves and the have nots increases.

Globally, many nations are experiencing growing inequality. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and in some countries, those in the middle are being squeezed. In 2020, Britain had one of the highest Gini scores for income inequality in the western world. The Covid-19 pandemic has only served to widen existing social fault-lines around education, income, location and ethnicity. It has also created new ones. Over the next decade, it is unlikely that these will simply close. Few expect the economy or society to revert to some kind of pre-pandemic normal.

Even pre-Covid-19, material inequalities were of great concern in the UK. Graduates already earned 60 per cent more than non-graduates. Today, these same graduates are more likely to be able to work from home, and are able to protect their incomes and health. British pensioners with savings have also prospered. But the young are struggling with exacerbating intergenerational inequalities, and the self-employed have been particularly hard hit. Many we spoke to see an unstoppable wealth shift. As a result, the share for the top 1% will grow further, with the middle and lower classes having progressively less. Expect to see an increased focus to go beyond income inequality to include asset inequality. It is in investments, property and pensions where the divides within even affluent areas become more apparent.

Moreover, analysis released by the Health Foundation has found that Britain’s poorest areas are now facing a double impact of the worst health outcomes and the most severe financial hardship. The most deprived 20% of local authorities not only have Covid-19 mortality rates that are more than twice as high as the wealthiest areas, they have also seen universal credit claimant numbers increase by 8%, compared to a 5.1% increase in the most affluent areas between March and August 2020.

Lastly, and linked to both digital connectivity and low-income levels in some communities, there is mounting concern around inconsistency in access to education. At 16, children from a disadvantaged background are at least 18 months behind their more fortunate peers. Such is the variety of roles of transitioning serving personnel, it is difficult to generalise about their prospects as they re-enter the economy, but many in our workshops were concerned that “serving personnel will be in the middle, which will be challenging.”

In public services and welfare provision, which would risk hurting those already in difficulties. If that happens, they argue that those most hurt by Covid-19 will be forced to pay for it. “All the evidence is pointing to growing inequality and worse circumstances.”

Others claim poor regulation can be blamed for the country’s lack of readiness to weather the storm and look towards innovation and greater investment in education to help the country recover. Looking ahead, we heard concern that future administrations may struggle to balance levelling up with the pressure to reduce the national debt. As a result, welfare spending may well suffer. Many feel the responsibility for care will shift from the state to the charitable sector, but sufficient resources may not accompany this shift.

Those in transition will not be immune to the consequences of this, although some we spoke to feel the matter is in hand, “I think politicians have got this issue, it’s in the narrative.” Others were not so positive, “We should not assume our serving personnel and veterans are immune to the increasing poverty gap. In a recent needs assessment, we were surprised by the number of Service children/ex-Service children who were entitled to free school meals.”

Few in our workshops felt optimistic that the problems around inequality would be solved any time soon. “Seems to me that we need to intervene to level up and drive more social equity – but no one seems to know how to do it for those in transition.”

Example Implication: The pressure of growing inequality in health, wealth and education, alongside government cutbacks, means that the support services available to vulnerable transitioners decline just at a time when they need it most.

Discussion

1 Comment

Anonymous

Perhaps we need more interventionist role in the market.  Greater competition, rising inequalities - seems to me we need to intervene more to level up to drive more social equity - but no one seems to know how to do that for those in transition.