Social and economic inequality has become one of the defining characteristics of our time. In fact, the gap between rich and poor (around the world and in the UK) defines the modern economy. It can potentially explain some of the reasoning behind the Brexit vote, the success of populists like Donald Trump and why more and more people are looking to politicians like Jeremy Corbyn for radical solutions.
Now a report from the UK’s Social Mobility Commission has highlighted the ‘spiral of ever growing’ regional inequality across the country. The study looked into factors such as education and housing to find the best - and worst - places in the country to grow up poor.
We’ve listed the the top and bottom 10 places below…
Top 10 places to grow up poor:
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Tower Hamlets
- Hammersmith and Fulham
And the bottom 10 places to be a poor child:
- West Somerset
- Newark and Sherwood
- Weymouth and Portland
The full list of local authorities according to social mobility can be found here.
Explaining the report, and the reasons for regional inequality, the authors say: “Britain is a deeply divided nation. Those divisions take many forms. Class, income, gender, race. In recent years, each has been the subject of much scrutiny. But one form of division that has received far less attention is that based on geography.
“In the labour market, major changes over recent decades have imprisoned five million workers – mainly women – in a low pay trap from which few find escape: only one in six of those workers who were low paid in 2006 had managed to find a permanent route out of low pay a decade later.
“At the other end of the labour market, our country’s professions – despite considerable effort to widen the pool of talent from which they recruit – remain remarkably unrepresentative of the public they serve: only 6% of doctors, 12% of chief executives and 12% of journalists today are from working-class origins.
“In the housing market, owner occupation – one of the foundations for higher levels of social mobility – has fallen by 17% in the last decade among the under-44s, as their household incomes have grown at only half the rate of their housing costs.
“In short, Britain’s deep social mobility problem, for this generation of young people in particular, is getting worse not better. The chances of someone from a disadvantaged background getting on in life is closely linked to where they grow up and choose to make a life for themselves.”
The report makes a number of recommendations about what can be done to tackle this problem of regional inequality:
- Every council should develop a dedicated strategy for improving disadvantaged children’s life chances
- Councils should subsidise transport for disadvantaged young people in isolated areas
- All councils become living wage employers
Commenting on the report, Dr Wanda Wyporska, executive director of The Equality Trust said: “We welcome the report, which provides even more evidence of the stark divide between the rich and the poor and we support calls for a more redistributive approach. It is a national disgrace that in affluent areas, poor people are still denied access to decent jobs with decent pay, good education and efficient transport.”
Speaking exclusively to Shortlist, Dave Innes, Policy and Research Manager at poverty and social change charity Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “There are huge differences across the country in opportunities people have to get a decent job. In areas such as the Humber, Tees Valley and the North East, more than two fifths of the workforce are either out of work, not working as many hours as they would like, or in low-paid or insecure work. The government needs to invest in adult skills as well as in schools, as five million people in the UK lack basic functional numeracy and literacy. The Industrial Strategy White Paper, released yesterday, provided some steps in the right direction on strategies for places seeing the least growth and rebalancing national spending. But much greater policy change is needed to really address regional inequalities in the opportunity to get a decent job.”
And Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: “In every area the Commission has highlighted, the Tories’ record is one of failure. Under the Tories, Sure Start funding has been cut by half, nurseries are in crisis, there are 400,000 more children living in poverty and the Chancellor has just pocketed a £750 million under-spend on childcare rather than invest in our kids.
“The Government has missed its teacher recruitment targets five years in a row - and for two years running more teachers have left classrooms than joined the profession. The Government’s offer on social mobility is a scheme to take a few children up to thirty miles a day by taxi to get to the nearest grammar school, while cutting school transport for the many.
“The consequences are stark. The country is becoming more divided, with the life chances of the poorest dependent on their postcode. Labour will do things very differently by creating a National Education Service to give opportunities to every child, whatever their background, as we transform Britain into a country that works for the many, not the few.”
One potential cure for this type of inequality is a wealth tax – raising taxes on the total wealth of the richest in society, not just their income. Just yesterday in a speech with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Leonard, the new Scottish Labour leader, signalled that he wants to see a one-off wealth tax for the richest 1% to fund public services.
(Images: iStock / REX / Social Mobility Commission)