Reducing inequality traded off to macroeconomic goals in UK

Scientific evidence and data are not at all missing in the United Kingdom, where inequality continues to rise. “Human rights researchers and practitioners working in and on the UK generally have access to a large amount of relevant and detailed data, at least when compared with other countries” recognizes Just Fair, a group of economic and social rights campaigners. That is why they find it “all the more surprising” that the UK’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) 2019, fails to disaggregate the information. “To ensure that nobody is left behind and to provide a truly meaningful picture, the government must gather and present the evidence based on all the prohibited grounds of discrimination according to both international and domestic human rights law, and this includes income and wealth disparities.”

Just Fair reports that “the UK is a highly unequal society. For example, life expectancy for women born in deprived areas has declined in recent years, something utterly unacceptable in the fifth largest world economy”.

The UK government claims to have “some of the strongest equalities legislation in the world, including the Equality Act 2010”. To be true to this commitment, argues Just Fair, “the government should implement the legislation in its entirety, including the socio-economic duty (section 1 of the Equality Act)”. This duty would require public authorities to actively consider how their strategically important decisions and policies could increase or decrease inequalities of outcome. The alternative report finds out that “regrettably, successive governments have failed to issue the necessary regulation to trigger the socio-economic duty, which means that it is not technically binding on public authorities. It is encouraging that the duty was brought to life in Scotland in 2018 and the Welsh government has announced it will follow suit in 2019. The socio-economic duty is a powerful lever to address the structural causes of material inequalities and their negative effects on human rights and well-being. Enforcing it would be a positive sign of the Government’s determination to reduce income and wealth inequalities and meet SDG 10.”

By Dr Koldo Casla1, Imogen Richmond-Bishop, Just Fair.

Read this chapter here.

Source: Report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019.