Creating a fairer Britain
11 October 2010
A landmark report released today by the Commission paints a picture of a largely tolerant and open-minded society, in which some equality gaps have closed over the past generation.
But ‘How fair Is Britain?’, the most comprehensive compilation of evidence on discrimination and disadvantage ever compiled in Britain, 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 first in a series of reports laid before Parliament every three years, ‘How fair is Britain?’ draws on a range of major datasets and surveys, as well as the Commission's own research reports, to build a portrait of Britain in 2010. The 700-page report provides the independent evidence and benchmarks for reviewing the state of social justice.
And it 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 three yearly assessment in the Review, mandated by the Equality Act 2006 will:
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.
Opposition to working for an ethnic minority boss or inter-ethnic marriages has dropped; stereotypical views about the roles that men and women should play in family and society have become less prevalent. And perhaps the most dramatic change is in relation to LGB people: a gap of less than 20 years separated the parliamentary debates about Section 28 and civil partnership.
Evidence suggests that the public is strongly in favour of the generic principles of equality, dignity and respect for all. This consensus was reflected by each of the main political parties, which went into the 2010 General Election with some form of explicit commitment to equality.
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.
The Review also highlights significant gaps in knowledge and data about particular groups - for example, transgender people - and the impact on our ability to tell whether the ideals of equality and fairness are being translated into a practical change for the better in these people’s real lives.
Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“This Review holds up the mirror to fairness in Britain. It is the most complete picture of its kind ever compiled. It shows that we are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference, and in our desire to be a truly fair society - but that we are still a country where our achievements haven't yet caught up with our aspirations.
“Sixty years on from the Beveridge report and the creation of the welfare state, his five giants of squalor, disease, ignorance, want and idleness have been cut down to size, though they still stalk the land.
“But in the 21st century we face a fresh challenge - the danger of a society divided by the barriers of inequality and injustice. For some, the gateways to opportunity appear permanently closed, no matter how hard they try; whilst others seems to have been issued with an ‘access all areas’ pass at birth. Recession, demographic change and new technology all threaten to deepen the fault lines between insiders and outsiders.
“Our Review has identified the five ‘great gateways’ to opportunity that could open the way to millions.”
The ‘gateways’ identified in the report are
1. Health and Well-being:
2. Education and Inclusion:
3. Work and Wealth:
4. Safety and Security:
5. Autonomy and Voice:
For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.
More information about the Review can be found on the Commission’s website at:
The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.