Bridging the wage gap, working to change lives.
There is a sense of helplessness, a feeling of not being understood, a climate of mistrust and belief that nothing will change because the haves will always have and the have nots will be cast aside.
The above can be true for any of us, regardless of our current circumstances or social background. The elderly struggling to heat their homes this winter, a prison inmate looking to make amends for a mistake, parents across all communities trying to make ends meet on low income employment but headstrong in their belief that contributing to the economy is the right thing to do.
If that wasn’t enough, a recent report on Community Cohesion, which looks to support integration, is being criticised in the media for focusing too much on one group of people or failing to identify cause and being too generalised. Is it any wonder then, that the hard working citizens of this country feel alienated from the political debate and fight back through their democratic right which manifests as resentment and disillusionment.
Why equality works
Feeling part of the community has been shown to have a positive effect on trust in authority as well as a sense of self-worth and therefore improves health and ultimately life expectancy. But how we move from the current hierarchical system, one in which the wage gap increases year on year to one more inclusive of the workforce and community groups is a topic very much up for discussion.
Pendleton and Brewster Portfolio Workforce (2001) show 15 to 20 per cent of UK companies have democratic employee ownership which goes some way to tackling the employee alienation issue and close the pay inequality gap. These companies are among the most respected in their sectors, yet this alone is only part of the answer. Employee ownership will definitely engage the staff and may even increase productivity, yet without some participation on the direction of the organisation, these schemes will plateau when return on investment is measured. Employee participative management along with employee ownership has been shown to offer real benefits when linked to company direction. Benefits such as feeling part of the community in the workplace, extending liberty and democracy, a bottom up approach, reducing inequality.
Greater equality is associated with more cohesive communities, a higher level of trust, work colleagues find a common aim, friendships and feel valued and increase productivity. Employee ownership schemes along with worker participation as a small percentage of the UK economy will only go so far, unless other companies commit to a fair pay structure, the well intentioned will remain at a disadvantage, the pay gap will remain and the ‘norm’ perpetuated.
Within our power
What can we do to change or influence this behaviour? It’s a huge issue in today’s society and one that will not be solved overnight. Personal development plays an important part, learning for ourselves the impact of these inequalities and understanding the evidence published. A good start might be to have a look at Wilkinson and Pickett Spirit Level Penguin (2010). Here the authors research existing data and suggest that “there is a way out of the woods for everyone”.
Act within our own circle of influence at our place of work. Fight mainly the battles we can win, however small, this will ultimately drive us towards winning the war on inequality. Selflessly offer guidance and support to those less fortunate or in time of need, giving freely of our time or knowledge is very rewarding and it’s amazing how the smallest act of kindness may have the biggest impact on someone’s life.
Who’s your MP? Find out how your community works and start to think about how senior posts can be petitioned to put equality across all demographics at the top of the agenda. Inequality impacts great swathes of the population and can be linked to many social challenges faced with even further budget cuts, let’s do all we can to keep the conversation moving in the right direct, a fair society for all.