14.10.10

How Fair Is Britain?

A landmark report released earlier this week by the Equality and Human Rights Commission paints a picture of a largely tolerant and open-minded society, in which some equality gaps have closed over the past generation.  

However, their review also shows that other long-standing inequalities remain undiminished; and that new social and economic fault-lines are emerging as Britain becomes older and more ethnically and religiously diverse.  

The review also identifies recession, public service reform, management of migration and technological change as major risk factors in progress towards a fairer society.

The 700-page report identifies five critical ‘gateways to opportunity’ which the Commission says can make the difference between success and failure in life: Health and Well-being: Education and Inclusion; Work and Wealth; Safety and Security; and Autonomy and Voice.

The Commission’s findings cover all seven areas of formal discrimination set out in law: age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender status. For the first time, it analyses the gaps in treatment and achievement of these seven social groupings beyond solely economic outcomes - by including factors such as personal autonomy and political influence (‘voice’) alongside education, health, standard of living and personal safety.

The report finds that over recent years, public attitudes have become much more tolerant of diversity, and much less tolerant of discrimination. This can be seen in relation to most of the major equality characteristics, including race, gender and sexual orientation.

However, the Review also highlights areas of anxiety. There is evidence that the public thinks that both racial and religious prejudice are on the increase, though this may reflect heightened sensitivities. British people are broadly positive about the economic contribution of many immigrants, but the ‘immigration paradox’ remains: about three quarters of the public say that they are concerned about the scale of immigration at a national level - but about the same proportion feels that immigration is not a problem for their own communities.

 

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