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Part Four - Genuine Social Security: Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2021

Susan Himmelweit
Affiliation:
The Open University, Milton Keynes
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Summary

After decades of neoliberal policies, growing inequality has left many of us leading increasingly insecure lives. A genuine social security system has become all the more necessary, but, instead, austerity has undermined even the minimal safety net system we once had.

Opportunities for the financial services industry have replaced social policy in this area. This has led to increases in household debt, with catastrophic consequences for some. Unregulated lending has also led to house price rises that have put proper housing beyond the reach of most young people. And we can no longer rely on the state pension to provide for our old age. Instead, we have a system that has privatised responsibility for provision in old age, relying on people saving in private and occupational pensions, helped by massive tax hand-outs to those who can afford to save most. This will leave those whose lifetime earnings are reduced by disability, discrimination or time spent out of the labour market caring for others, particularly women, in poverty in their old age.

Rather than being recognised as providing income security for all, the social security system has been recast as ‘welfare’ for the ‘not very deserving’ poor. This has enabled billions of pounds to be taken from the incomes of the poorest, until recently almost without protest, on the pretext of reducing the deficit, while at the same time income tax, the fairest tax we have, has been cut. Again, it is those whose earning capacity is most restricted who have paid the most for these policies. As the House of Commons Library has shown, by 2020 women will have paid for 86 per cent of the costs of fiscal consolidation achieved by changes in personal taxes and benefits since 2010, while men will have paid for just 14 per cent.

This policy ideas presented in this part of the book consider how some of these issues could be addressed and how the social security system could be reconstructed to become the basis of genuine social solidarity between individuals and generations. They start with innovative ideas for beginning to tackle the debt and housing crises, by Johnna Montgomerie, and Beth Stratford and Duncan McCann respectively.

Type
Chapter
Information
Rethinking Britain
Policy Ideas for the Many
, pp. 138 - 140
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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