Inequality harms children

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The TUC has published a briefing revealing that inequality is just as damaging to children as poverty, and harms their health, education and well-being. As it says:

Poverty and inequality and children finds that, while the UK has had some success in reducing the level of poverty over the last decade, progress on social inequality has been much more muted. Over the last 30 years inequality has grown rapidly in the UK, and the gap between the top tenth of the population and the bottom tenth has doubled since 1979.

Inequality in the UK has not only grown over time, it is high internationally. By European standards the UK is a very unequal country; Ireland and Italy have the same level of inequality as the UK, but Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark are all significantly lower and no EU countries have a higher level.

Poverty and inequality and children includes international research by UNICEF which found that children's wellbeing was significantly correlated to a country's level of income inequality and the percentage of children in relative poverty, but not to a country's or state's average income. This suggests that reducing inequality would do more to promote children's well-being than further increases in economic growth.

The briefing recommends reducing original income inequality, by:

  • Raising the skill levels of people with low or no qualifications;
  • Addressing discrimination against women workers, especially on the grounds of motherhood;
  • Removing the pay penalty that workers face if they work part-time;
  • Strengthening the position of vulnerable workers, by introducing stronger rights for agency workers, and better enforcing existing rights such as the national minimum wage;
  • Promoting unions and collective bargaining - most economists are agreed that weaker unions offer part of the explanation for growing inequality.

I would add that tax has to be part of the solution: those on lowest incomes pay too much. We need a genuinely progressive tax system. We have not got one. This is part of the solution. Abolishing the domicile rule is a first step on the way.