Socialist Worker

Inequality stunts the lives of millions

Issue No. 2223

The Tories plan an assault on the working class that will drive down living standards and push up inequality.

But workers’ lives are already scarred by poverty and class division, as a new report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) shows. It has some shocking statistics.

Poverty means the poorest people in Britain die on average seven years earlier than the richest.

People living in the poorest areas are twice as likely to kill themselves as those in the richest.

In Wales, 27 percent of long term unemployed workers are suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.

Scotland has the highest rate for certain heart diseases in Western Europe.

Around half of working-age people in England and Wales lack functional numeracy skills—while a quarter of people in Wales lack functional literacy.

And the pay gap between men and women in full-time work stands at 12.2 percent.

The report exposes the lie that we are “all in it together”.

Instead it shows how class and oppression are wrecking the lives of millions. Inequality hits certain groups harder than others.

Disabled men without qualifications were half as likely to be employed in the early 2000s as they were in the mid-1970s.

Irish Traveller and Roma children are the most likely to be permanently excluded from school in England.

And across Britain, some 52 percent of Bangladeshi women said they had “poor” health—compared to an average of 25 percent for women as a whole.

These facts are an indictment of Britain. But the most striking thing about the report is that it reveals how the system fails the entire working class.

So, the fact that a full quarter of all women have poor health shows how deep poverty goes.

Inequality is structured into society and class shapes our lives from the moment we are born.

Yet the Tories’ response to all this is to blame the poor for their poverty and to ram through ever more brutal measures to devastate lives.

Last week culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said that people on benefits should have fewer children so that the state didn’t have to “finance their choices”.

This week the Tories launched yet another round of tests for people on incapacity benefit.

The “work capability assessment” will drive hundreds of thousands of people onto the cheaper Jobseeker’s Allowance.

And the Tories do all this while living in luxury. Just hours before they announced brutal cuts at the Tory party conference, David Cameron and George Osborne were living it up at a £25,000 posh party paid for by their billionaire ex-treasurer.

They scoffed a four-course meal washed down with champagne.

Yet their cuts will push even more working class people into desperation, where they can’t afford to eat properly as they try to survive on £60 a week unemployment benefit.

The Tories want to force workers into the gutter to pay for a crisis we didn’t create.

The war is on—and we can’t afford to lose it.

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What We Think
Tue 12 Oct 2010, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2223
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