The Extent to Which Rowntree’s Activities Have a Positive Influence On Economic Inequality
The UK has experienced an increase in the level of concerns about economic inequality or certain aspects that manifest its existence. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a charitable organization, poverty in the UK is real, harmful, and costly. A sizeable proportion of the UK households are struggling to make ends meet. A report published in 2010 showed that 10% of the UK population is 100 times wealthy compared to the bottom 10% (Orton & Rowlingson 2012). Similarly, Orton and Rowlingson (2012) emphasize that ‘income inequality stands at historically high levels and asset inequality has increased since the 1990s with the top 1% now owning nearly a quarter of all marketable assets’ (p.9). Economic inequality is currently considered as a marked feature in the UK’s social-economic structure. This indicates the existence of a high degree of economic inequality. The economic inequality has triggered extensive policy debates in the UK in an effort to address the situation (Keep & Mayhew 2014).
The JRF is committed to advocating for the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the UK such as refugees, migrants, and the black and minority communities. The Foundation is of the view that promoting equality is critical in enhancing the well-being of the vulnerable hence benefiting the whole society. The Foundation’s purpose is to influence or inspire social change through its practice; research and advocating for policy change (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2017). Thus, the Foundation is focused on identifying and demonstrating solutions that can be employed in order to eliminate economic inequality. This paper evaluates the extent to which Rowntree’s activities have a positive influence on economic inequality.
Analysis of Rowntree’s activities and its impact on economic inequality
In an effort to promote economic equality in the UK, JRF has embarked on a number of activities. Some of the notable activities that the Foundation undertakes include advocating for improved housing, the creation of employment for the masses, and advocating for the implementation of financial schemes for workers. Through these activities, JRF intends to achieve improved economic inequality, improved crime rate, and improved public health.
The UK is characterized by a high degree of inequality with regard to housing. The UK housing market is ranked as one of the most volatile markets, which is evidenced by the four booms and bust cycles experienced in the country since the 1970s (Stephens 2016). The economic cycles have negatively affected housing market stability. For example, the affordability of houses in the UK has become a major problem. A sizeable proportion of the country’s population has limited capacity to rent or purchase a house. According to The Equality Trust (2016), 86% of renters, which accounts for over 6 million households do not have adequate income to meet the 5% deposit required for a mortgage for an average first home. Moreover, 95% of the UK population cannot afford the £35,354.60 deposit required for a mortgage for an average first home in the UK (The Equality Trust 2017). The affordability problem in the UK has been exacerbated by the increase in wealth inequality and rising house prices. A report by Halifax, a reputable market research firm, indicates that house prices in the UK are expected to range between £220,000 and £226,000 (Collinson 2017). The housing problem will also be increased by the tightening of lending conditions in the UK financial market.
In line with its commitment to promote equality by eliminating the housing problem, the JRF convened a Housing Market Taskforce, which was comprised of different experts. The task force’s motive was to identify a long-term solution to the country’s house price volatility (Stephens 2016). The task force advocated a number of solutions amongst them addressing the supply of houses and controlling the cost of housing. To deal with the housing shortage, JRF has advocated the implementation of a policy that will lead to the establishment of 150,000 housing units across the UK annually. This move will significantly reduce housing inequality by improving the housing supply. In response to the approach proposed by JRF, the UK government established a national target of constructing 240,000 housing units annually in 2007. The national target is intended to increase the housing supply by 2 million by the end of 2016 and 3 million housing units by 2020 (Stephens 2016).
The adoption of national targets by the UK indicates that the activities of JRF with regard to housing will lead to a significant reduction in housing inequality in the UK. Improvement in the supply of social housing units in the UK will also lead to an increase in the rate of housing affordability amongst economically vulnerable groups. This will arise from the fact that the UK government has implemented a National Affordable Housing program, which is intended to ensure that the UK is successful in increasing the number of socially rented and low-cost homes (Stephens 2016). Implementation of the housing approach will play a remarkable role in addressing the increase in cases of homelessness, which has increased remarkably in the UK.
Enhancing the affordability of rent and housing will play a fundamental role in enhancing public health. For example, good housing will reduce the incidence of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis, especially among the homeless. Epidemiological studies show that homelessness is associated with the prevalence of communicable diseases. According to Badiaga, Raoult, and Brouqui (2008), the prevalence rate for tuberculosis amongst the homeless ranges between 1.2% and 6.8%. Previous studies show that improving housing conditions is critical in reducing the prevalence of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis.
According to JRF, the UK is characterized by an increase in the number of low-skilled and low-paid jobs compared to other developed economies (Stephens 2016). In addition to this aspect, the UK is characterized by a relatively stable rate of unemployment. Between 1976 and 2016, the country’s average rate of unemployment was 7.1. The country has experienced a significant reduction in the rate of unemployment over the past two years. For example, the country’s rate of unemployment declined from 7.2 in 2014 to 4.7 in 2016 (Trading Economics 2017). In spite of the low rate of unemployment, the UK is characterized by inequality with regard to living standards. Joseph Rowntree Foundation is focused on promoting the citizen’s living standards. One of the ways through which the Foundation intends to achieve this is by creating employment opportunities for the country’s population. In pursuing this goal, JRF's motive is to ensure that the vulnerable groups in society have a source of income. One of the ways through which JRF has actualized this goal is by pressuring the UK public sector to establish projects that target recruiting employees from marginalized groups and deprived communities (Macfarlane 2002). In an effort to foster the creation of employment opportunities for the masses, JRF formulated a report dubbed ‘Achieving Community Benefits Through Contracts’ in 2002 by Mark Cook. The report was adopted and applied by a number of Local Authorities in the UK, especially within the construction sector. This has led to increased adoption of social procurement amongst organizations in the UK (Loosemore 2016). The Local Authorities that have adopted this approach in procuring employees include London, Wales, Cardiff, and Edinburgh (Macfarlane 2002). The Foundation has also advocated for the government that adopt this approach in procuring employees to undertake a comprehensive training program in order to improve the selected employees' skills. This move will not only contribute to improvement in the employee's earnings but will also foster the selected employee's employability because of the new skills gained. In summary, it is evident that JRF has played a major role in promoting the elimination of economic inequality by creating job opportunities for vulnerable and minority groups in the UK.
Advocating for the implementation of financial schemes for workers
In addition to promoting employment opportunities for the masses, JRF is also committed to eliminating economic inequality by pressuring the UK government to establish financial schemes for workers. One of the financial schemes that the JRF focuses on entails a pension scheme. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, approximately 46% of the UK general population is unsure of their retirement. This aspect arises from the high cost of living, which has made saving difficult. Additionally, the increase in the rate of job insecurity as a result of economic changes has further worsened the situation. The increase in the rate of uncertainty regarding retirement affects both the young and the elderly employees. To deal with the situation, JRF has advocated for the UK government to establish effective pension schemes that will be relevant to all employees. One of the ways through which the UK government has achieved this outcome is by encouraging employers to integrate an auto-enrollment pension scheme (Wright & Case 2017). Additionally, JRF advocates the government to offer employees within the lower income bracket a pension tax relief. This move will ensure that employees have a relatively high-income stream after retirement. Thus, the UK government will significantly reduce economic inequality. The UK government has also established universal credit, which entails a benefit system in which vulnerable groups are issued with financial assistance (Wright & Case 2017; Simmons 2010). By integrating the financial schemes advocated by JRF, the UK government will succeed in providing income to vulnerable groups hence reducing the incidence of crime.
The analysis indicates that Rowntree’s activities have had a positive impact on the reduction of economic inequality in the UK. The Foundation’s activities have targeted a number of aspects that indicate the existence of economic inequality in the UK. These activities include enhancing access to housing, establishment of financial schemes, and creating employment opportunities for vulnerable groups. By pursuing these goals, the UK has experienced an improvement in health and living conditions among vulnerable groups. Moreover, JRF activities have also contributed to a reduction in the rate of crime.
Badiaga, S, Raoult, D & Broqui, P 2008, ‘Preventing and controlling emerging and re-emerging transmittable diseases in the homeless’, Emerg Infect Disease, vol. 14, no. 9, pp. 1353-1359.
Collinson, R 2016, UK house prices to rise marginally in 2017, says Halifax. [Online].
Loosemore, M 2016, ‘Social procurement in UK construction projects’, Project Management, vol. 34, pp. 133-144.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Inspiring social change 2017. [Online].
Keep, E & Mayhew 2014, ‘Inequality; wicked problems labor market outcomes and the search for silver bullets’, Journal of Oxford Review of Education, vol. 40, no. 6.
Macfarlane, R 2002, Achieving community benefits through contracts; law, policy and practice. [Online].
Office of National Statistics: Household disposable income and inequality in the UK 2016. [Online].
Orton, M & Rowlingson, K 2012, Public attitude to economic inequality. [Online].
Simmons, D 2010, Universal credit; universal panacea. [Online].
Stephens, M 2011, Tackling housing market volatility in the UK. [Online].
The Equity Trust: A house divided; how unaffordable housing drives UK inequality 2016. [Online].
Trading Economics: United Kingdom unemployment rate 2017. [Online].
Wright, D & Case, R 2017, Welfare reform; government must press ahead with universal credit but crucial changes need to support struggling families. [Online].