How Fair is Britain?

Every three years the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is required to report to Parliament on the progress that it thinks society is making in relation to equality, human rights and the rather vague-sounding ‘good relations’. How Fair is Britain?, the report of EHRC’s first Triennial Review, has now been published. The 700 page study is available to download here, or to read online here. Via The Guardian:

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the EHRC, said the study revealed that while British attitudes towards issues of race, gender and sexuality are now “light years” ahead of previous generations, the reality on the ground has yet to fully catch up. In consequence, there are deep divisions in Britain’s classrooms, different experiences of the criminal justice system and a stubbornly large pay gap between men and women. In full-time work, women are still paid 16.4% less than men, a figure that rises to 55% in the finance sector.


“Inequality and disadvantage don’t come neatly packaged in parcels marked age, or disability, or gender, or race. They emerge often as a subset of a strand – not as a disability issue, but as a mental health issue; not as a generalised ethnic penalty, but as a result of being Pakistani; not a pay gap for working women, but a pay gap for working mothers.”

The largest part of the Review comprises a collection of data about the chances, choices and outcomes in life of different groups of people and it considers the experience of groups of people who share common characteristics in terms of: Age; Gender; Disability; Ethnicity; Religion or belief; Sexual orientation; Transgender status.

Here are a few of the findings that caught my eye while skimming the report earlier:

Sexual assault and domestic violence

  • Women experience over three-quarters of domestic violence and sexual assault, and encounter more extreme forms than do men.
  • 1 in 4 women have experienced some form of domestic abuse in England and Wales since reaching the age of 16; and 1 in 7 women in Scotland have experienced a physical form of partner abuse since reaching the age of 16.
  • Over a quarter of all rapes reported to the police in 2009/10 in England and Wales were committed against children aged under 16: over half of all male rapes reported to the police that year were of children aged under 16.
  • Three-quarters of domestic violence offences in England and Wales are repeat offences: the rate of repeat-offending is higher for domestic violence than for most other crimes.
  • Despite some improvements in levels of reporting, the rate of conviction for rape is lower than for similar crimes.

Hate crime

  • In England and Wales, the number of cases of racially and religiously motivated crime being reported to the police has fallen slightly since 2006/07. However, the conviction rate for racially and religiously motivated and for homophobic and transphobic crimes has risen in England and Wales.
  • The majority of incidents recorded by the police involve harassment, but the majority of cases that are prosecuted are crimes against the person. Incidents targeting different groups take a variety of forms: for example, religiously motivated crime affects community institutions as well as individuals; hate crime targeting LGB people can involve sexual assault; and disability related hate crime often targets people’s property.

Social groups

  • Rates of stop and search for Black and Asian people suggest that there may be disproportionality; and Black people are much less likely than White people to believe that their complaints about the police will be taken seriously, and are more likely to worry about police harassment.
  • Survey data suggests that LGB people are more likely to worry about and to experience discrimination by the police, whether they were reporting a crime or suspected of committing one.
  • A small-scale study of the attitudes of transgender people suggest that while the majority expect fair treatment, around 1 in 5 have experienced problems when reporting crimes.


  • Cyberbullying is now estimated to affect around a third of secondary age young people.
  • Two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual students in Britain and four-fifths of disabled young people in England report being bullied. Almost a quarter (23%) of young people questioned who practiced any religion in England reported being bullied because of their faith.


  • In Britain, women occupy 77% of administration and secretarial posts but only 6% of engineering and 14% of architects, planners and surveyors. 83% of people employed in personal services are women.
  • In Britain, 40% of female jobs are in the public sector compared to 15% of male jobs.

Pay gaps

  • Women with degrees are estimated to face only a 4% loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with mid-level qualifications face a 25% loss and those with no qualifications a 58% loss.
  • Women aged 40 earn on average 27% less than men of the same age.
  • Disabled men experience a pay gap of 11% compared with non-disabled men, while the gap between disabled women and non-disabled men is double this at 22%.
  • Some research suggests that Black graduates face a 24% pay penalty.
  • Disabled women experience a 31% pay penalty compared to non-disabled men.

This is only scratching the surface of the report; it’s a huge, labyrinthine document and it will be interesting to see which items receive the most media attention. Certainly the issue of equal pay has already been noted by Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, who says that closing the gap will require much “greater political will” than has been apparent for years.

The report goes on to identify what it calls significant challenges, broken down into five subsections covering Health and life expectancy, Chance to learn and realise talents, Economic participation for all, End identity-based violence and harassment and Personal autonomy and civic power.

All in all, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the statistics gathered by the Review show many instances of unfairness and unequal outcomes. The report recommends that resources are focused on targeting areas of what it considers to be the most extreme inequalities in society. The report concludes by iterating its opinion that:

Making significant headway on each of these challenges will, we believe, make a powerful contribution to individuals’ lives, to their families, to the economy of the country as a whole, and to good relations between people of different backgrounds.

It’s hard to argue with such persuasive language; however I can only hope that the necessary ongoing process of building a fairer and more egalitarian society for all will have gathered sufficient momentum for the results to start showing up in the next Triennial Review in 2013.