‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ was Churchill’s infamous wartime quip, and the early days of the pandemic seemed the ideal opportunity to pivot to a fairer way of life in Britain. Cherished systems were re-invented wholesale, underpaid frontline workers propped up the nation and big state intervention saved millions of lives – prime conditions for a shake-up of priorities.
But as the months passed, it seemed COVID only magnified existing disadvantage and entrenched poverty further. The crisis cleaved the nation into the ‘exposed poor and the shielded rich’ (FT) and the nightly round of applause for NHS workers replaced pay rises, protections or altered conditions. Indeed, the wealth of British billionaires and tech companies rose to dizzying new peaks in the last two years, whilst its poorest areas struggled with high mortality rates and deepening poverty and desperation.
How can we reverse this trend and break a 200-year high-inequality, high-poverty cycle that is only worsening? What can we learn from the ongoing pandemic, and how can we prevent the gulf widening even further in future years?
Author and visiting fellow at the University of Bristol’s School of Policy Studies, Stewart Lansley is one of the country’s leading experts on inequality. He is joined by Professor Kate Pickett, co-director, The Equality Trust; Helen Barnard, associate director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; and Anthony Painter, chief research and impact officer, RSA, to discuss what we should be aiming for in a truly fair Britain.
The RSA’s research found that 30 percent of workers do not feel they earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living. Read more about the RSA’s work on economic insecurity, Universal Credit, and the levelling up debate.
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