Governments have consistently failed to close the wealth gap

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: July 14, 2017 Last modified: July 14, 2017

The Social Mobility Commission has reported that two decades of government efforts have failed to deliver enough progress in reducing
the gap between Britain’s “haves and have nots.”

The commission called on current and future governments to learn five key lessons from the mistakes and successes of the past 20 years, warning that without deep-seated reform, social and economic div­isions in British society are set to widen with consequences for community cohesion and economic prosperity.

Its in-depth analysis found that child poverty has risen in the aftermath of the recession and there is currently no prospect of it ending; and at current rates of progress, it will take 15 years before all children are school ready and 40 years before the attainment gap between poor five-year-olds and their better-off counterparts is closed.

There is currently no prospect of the gap between poorer and wealthier children being eliminated at either GCSE- or A-level; labour market outcomes for young people are poor: young people’s wages have fallen 16% – taking pay to below 1997 levels; and despite university access widening, retention and graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students have barely improved.

For young people, government actions should include a refocusing of apprenticeships policy on young people and on higher quality apprenticeships, and making sure that higher education is available via further education colleges in social mobility cold spots.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “What is so striking about this new analysis is how divided we have become as a nation. A new geographical divide has opened up, a new income divide has opened up and a new generational divide has opened up.

“If we go on like this, these divisions are set to widen, not narrow. There is a growing sense in the nation that these divisions are not sustainable, socially, economically or politically. There is hunger for change. New approaches are needed if Britain is to become a fairer and more equal country.”

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune