How equal is the UK?

The UK is generally thought of as being a far more equal country than other country’s in the world in terms of economic and social equality. After all, it has more laws to prevent discrimination against minority groups than other countries and schemes to help those who are worst off to have a more equal chance in education and employment than those who are considered to be better off in society. However despite all this, there are still inequalities within the UK; some children still receive a much higher quality level of education than others, some employers still employ more men than women and homosexuals still don’t have as much social freedom as heterosexuals. This has raised questions over if the UK can or should be called an equal country.

The UK still has huge gaps in education (photo credit: theguardian.com)

Firstly, the UK has an education system that ensures that every child no matter their background or income level has the right to a free education and this straight away appears to make the UK a more equal country compared to other countries in the world where education is something that has to be paid for and therefore can only be experienced by children from wealthier families. Ensuring that all children can be educated helps to provide them with the qualifications and skills that they will need to achieve employment and a career in their adult life and therefore will allow them to support themselves, which helps the state by providing taxes to help fund this education as well as reducing the amounts of benefits likely to be paid out to those who are not employed. However, whilst any child can be educated the level to which they are educated still varies with the income their families earn. For example, children from wealthier families are more likely to receive a better standard of education and will have more opportunities in life open to them because they can afford to go to private schools. Therefore the wealth of a child’s family still affects their opportunities in education and life.

Secondly, there have been several pieces of legislation that have been introduced in the UK over the years which have aimed to reduce discrimination in the workplace. laws such as the equality act made it illegal to treat someone differently in a workplace because of their gender such as choosing not to employ a woman because of her gender. This has meant that women and men both have more equal opportunities in employment although the extent to which laws like these have been a success remains unclear as whilst these laws may have good intentions they can be hard to monitor and enforce so the success of them could be seen as limited. furthermore, women still are paid an average £5000 less than men which indicates that the UK’s employment system is not equal across both genders despite efforts to narrow this gap. The pay gap is largest for female health professionals who are paid almost half of what male health professionals earn per hour on average and women working in culture, media and sports have a pay gap of almost 20%. This tells us that the UK is not the most equal country in terms of employment and pay and whilst it is a lot better than some less developed countries it can’t be seen as equal completely.

Social equality should also be taken into consideration when assessing the degree to which the UK  is an equal country such as the differences in rights between people of different sexualities. There is no doubt that the rights of homosexual people have improved over the past few hundred years as it is no longer illegal to be gay in the UK and being gay is also no longer classed as a mental illness as it was until recently. Also the recent introduction of the same-sex couples act in 2013 has made it legal for couples of the same-sex to get married. Therefore there has been huge progression over time in achieving a more equal society and this makes the UK more equal than other countries such as Uganda where it is still illegal to be gay and doing so would result in imprisonment.  However whilst there have definitely been improvements on a wider scale, on a more individual scale there is still large inequalities as many bi sexual or homosexual individuals struggle to tell their friends and family about their sexuality and many teenager who are gay are bullied because of it. also the word ‘gay’ is used as an insult in many schools amongst children and teenagers which shows that it is not as acceptable to be of a different sexuality to others. Therefore whilst the UK has made large amounts of progress to become more equal in society it can be very hard to change people’s opinions and attitudes which means inequalities still occur on smaller scales which are often overlooked.

There is no doubt that I feel lucky to live in a country where inequalities are a lot lower than other countries in comparison, after all if I didn’t have a right to a free education then I probably wouldn’t be writing this article. However there is also no doubt that the UK still lacks in some areas of equality where big improvements still need to be made.

Sources

  • information on gender equality sourced from: http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality-issues/gender-equality/equal-pay/women-still-earn-%C2%A35000-year-less-men
  • information on sex discrimination and the equality act sourced from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1814
  • other information about social inequalities and inequalities in education sourced from my A level geography notes
  • information on where it is illegal to be gay sourced from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25927595
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