Measures for tackling social and economic inequalities

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Tackling inequality: Taxation

  • Income tax is often used by governments to redistribute wealth from more prosperous to less prosperous groups, and so create a fairer society.
  • Most governments have progressive tax systems where the better off pay a larger proportion of their incomes in tax.
  • Essential items such as food may be exempt from tax. This benefits poorer groups that spend a larger percentage of their income on food.
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Tackling inequality: Subsidies

  • Governments try to reduce inequality by giving subsidies to poorer groups.
  • Children in poor families may get free school meals, clothing allowances and help with university fees.
  • Pensioners may get subsidies for fuel and transport.
  • Other subsidies may include free child care for single parents.
  • Low-wage earners, unemployed workers and those with long-term disability are entitled to benefits.
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Tackling inequality: Planning

  • Governments, charities and housing agencies often give priority to upgrading housing services in the poorest areas.
  • Planning is often organised geographically and is targeted at the most deprived areas which vary in scale from neighbourhoods to entire regions.
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Tackling inequality: Law

  • Legislation exists which outlaws discrimination on racial, ethnic, gender and age criteria and aims to give equal opportunites to all groups.
  • The poorest groups of workers are protected by minimum wage legislation.
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Tackling inequality: Education

  • Governments often provide funding for training and upgrading skills in order to raise skill levels and qualifications, improve employment prospects and boost economic growth.
  • Education programmes designed to improve personal health (e.g. diet, obesity, smoking) are often targeted at the poorest groups in society.
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Pensions: Providing them and their problems

  • Spending on pensions in the UK has almost doubled in the past dozen years. This largely reflects increasing life expectancy and an ageing of the population. As a result the age at which people can draw their state pension is increasing.
  • Some of the poorest members of society are those relying on the state pension, although some are entitled to benefits.There tends to be a disproportionate number of these people living in inner cities and this contributes to high levels of multiple deprivation in these areas. It is important to distinguish between this group and pensioners who are relatively wealthy.
  • Large numbers of people now retiring have occupational pensions which provide an additional income to the state pension. Many of these retirees also own their homes outright and have benefitted from house price inflation, which increases their wealth.
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Healthcare: Providing it and its problems

  • Healthcare in many ACs is provided by a combination of government and private organisations. In the UK, the NHS is 'free at the point of delivery'. People pay for the NHS through the taxation system.
  • The provision of health services varies, for example, inner cities and remote rural areas can be short of GPs and other health care workers. Others, such as affluent suburban areas, are well served.
  • Language and cultural barriers and the role and status of women have been obstacles to recently arrived migrants accessing health care services. Within some groups, fears about immunisation and a lack of resistance to childhood diseases have meant that children are unprotected against common diseases like measles or whooping cough. Literature is produced in ethnic minority languages to inform parents of the benefits of immunisation and as literacy has improved and more assimilation has taken place, overall health care has improved.
  • There is a hierarchy in the provision of health care from the GP surgery through to specialist units in large teaching hospitals. As medical care has become more technological, it has become concentrated in fewer but larger facilities. Meanwhile in rural areas and many small towns, local 'cottage' hospitals have closed. For lower-income families and the elderly with lower levels of personal mobility, access to health services in these areas can be a problem.
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