‘Fairness’ is as British as fish and chips:
We have a tradition of anti-discrimination law that stretches back centuries;
We’re internationally recognised for our love of fairness. Other languages borrow the words “fair play” from English.
This tradition goes from strength to strength today.
The vast majority of us are happy working and making friends with people from other races.
Outdated stereotypes about women have begun to fade.
And there have been huge changes in attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
As little as 20 years ago, we had laws which stigmatised same-sex couples.
Today, we celebrate civil partnerships.
There have been improvements in other people’s lives too.
Ethnic minority groups who used to lag far behind in exam performance have begun to catch up.
Women’s pay, relative to men’s, has improved continuously for 3 decades.
And the criminal justice system has got better at recognising hate crime, and supporting victims.
In sum, there has been real progress towards meaningful equality.
But there remain many aspects of British life that aren’t fair.
It’s the job of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to help society make further progress.
We believe that every individual should have an equal chance to make the most of their talents.
No-one should have poorer life chances because of where, what or whom they were born.
It’s not enough, though, simply to express good intentions.
What matters is making a practical, tangible difference.
And you can’t hope to make change happen in the real world without looking hard at the facts.
That’s why, every 3 years, the Commission is committed to producing what we call a ‘Triennial Review.’
This October we are publishing our first ever such review, entitled ‘How Fair Is Britain’
It describes the chances, choices and outcomes in life of people from all different groups:
People of different races, religions, and ages.
Men and women.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and people who are transgender.
Where appropriate, it also looks at the influence socio-economic background – or as it is more often called, class.
Some of the challenges that the review exposes have been the topic of debate for years.
Women still earn significantly less than men for every hour they work, for example.
Some groups, including ethnic minorities and disabled people, are much less likely to hold positions of civic influence.
These challenges are no less important for being familiar.
But there are other emerging challenges which may be more surprising. They reflect changes in the wider economy and society.
In education, it is now boys and young men who consistently under-perform at every level, from nursery to university.
This is an issue not just about individual equity, but about the prosperity of society as a whole: all the evidence suggests that skills are only going to become more crucial to Britain’s economy in the future.
Meanwhile, in home life, an astonishing 25 % of women in their 50s now take on caring responsibilities for partners, relatives or friends.
This can take its toll on their health and income.
Again, this is not just an individual issue, it’s relevant to the whole of society.
Without proper support, carers may find it difficult to get involved in volunteering, charity work, and other forms of civic action that greatly benefit their local area.
We will need to think fast if we do not want to miss out on that contribution, especially as the demand for informal care is likely to rise inexorably as the population changes.
In essence, the review gives us a map to show where we, as a society, should be concentrating our resources, if we want to match our aspirations towards equality with real achievements: and be as fair, in practice, as we like to think we are in theory.
We hope the review will have a major impact and provide a significant contribution to the fairness debate in politics, in businesses, and in civil society.
Last updated: 25 May 2016