More than unpopular. How ParentsNext intrudes on single parents’ human rights


ParentsNext is to be the subject of a Senate inquiry, with submissions closing on February 1.

The program has been widely criticised for making parents’ lives more difficult and for unfairly stopping payments.

But that wasn’t how it began, and it wasn’t what was trialled.

The program trialled from April 2016 provided intensive job-readiness training (and parenting programs) for single parents “at risk”, often Indigenous, to help prepare them to enter the workforce when their youngest was ready for school.

An announcement in the 2017 budget declared the trial a success and said that from July 2018 it would be expanded to an extra 20 locations with “a significant Indigenous population”, and to the entire country, less intensively.

The expanded program would place participation requirements on parents such as reporting to a service provider and would lead to loss of benefits for non-compliance. This was supported by a new so-called Targeted Compliance Framework also introduced last year.

The ParentsNext that was implemented from July 1 made parenting payments and other benefits conditional on taking part in the program for targeted groups of vulnerable parents.

Parents have had their parenting payments docked for failing to attend “story time sessions”, and domestic violence survivors have been retraumatised by being made to retell their stories (sometimes in front of their children) in order to keep receiving payments.

Even ParentsNext providers are unhappy

ParentsNext service providers’ representative, Jobs Australia, has begged Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer to disentangle ParentsNext from the compliance requirements, saying it is doing the opposite of what was intended.

It said that the compliance aspects of the program are adding to parents’ stress and financial hardship.

Examples of problems include: rural parents without smart phones or enough data are being suspended for not reporting if they can’t travel to providers in other towns to report. Parents are being referred to emergency relief on a Friday to buy food because payment suspensions can’t be lifted until Monday. A pregnant woman had payments suspended after she was rushed to hospital for a premature birth and was unable to report.

A key consideration for the Senate inquiry ought to be whether this violates human rights.

It threatens human rights

Australia is signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which establishes social security as a human right.

Social security is an entitlement provided by a society to members who are in need due to circumstances such as illness, disability, unemployment, old age and caring responsibilities.

That right, as with others in the International Covenant, must be “exercised without discrimination”, including on the basis of sex, race, language and national or social origin.

And leads to discrimination

Since a disproportionate number of people automatically enrolled in ParentsNext and facing payment cuts are Indigenous, the program appears to discriminate on the basis of race.

It might also discriminate against disadvantaged parents who are new to Australia and face language and cultural barriers making compliance a challenge.

Almost all of the participants – 96% – are women, meaning conditions attached to their social security payments could lead to gender discrimination in their access to social security rights. Selected mothers are being punished for undertaking the unpaid care work necessary to raise children, in a context where affordable child care and appropriate employment is often not available.

It might also discriminate against children on the basis of their family type. Children in disadvantaged sole parent families face discrimination as a result of the withdrawal of payments – which is less likely to affect children in families with lower vulnerability.

The United Nations is watching

Conditionality itself may be at odds with Australia’s obligations.

One interpretation of international human rights says that, to the greatest extent possible, states should refrain from imposing co-responsibilities or conditionalities on receipt of social protection, and instead should channel financial and human resources into improving the level of benefits provided and the quality and accessibility of social services available.

Withholding entitlements cannot be a correct response to structural challenges such as lack of jobs and childcare.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has already expressed concern about the effect of cuts to the payments available to single parents.

These cuts, together with the compliance requirements attached to ParentsNext, raise questions about Australia’s stated commitments to its international human rights obligations.

When Australia joined the International Covenant in 1976 it promised to use its social security system to promote rather than chip away at human rights. The Senate committee provides an opportunity to ensure this does not continue.


By: Beth Goldblatt (Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney)
Date: January 16, 2019
Source: The Conversation

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment

Indonesia’s Rights Struggle: Deciding Which Candidate Is the ‘Lesser Evil’


A debate showed that neither candidate in Indonesia’s presidential race has any plans to address human-rights abuses.

JAKARTA—Standing on a stage in the Hotel Bidakara’s ballroom in downtown Jakarta during a presidential debate, Indonesia’s incumbent leader, Joko Widodo, meekly defended what has been, at best, a checkered record on human rights.

Widodo, popularly known simply as Jokowi, denied having overseen any rights violations; he pledged, as he did four years ago when he first ran for the presidency, to reshape the justice system; and he promised, as he had four years ago, to push for land reform. And, in the course of the 73-minute back-and-forth on Thursday evening—the first of five such debates ahead of elections in April—he showed how little has really changed here during his time in office.

When Jokowi came to power in 2014, he did so articulating nine priorities, a program he called the Nawa Cita. Among them was a promise to resolve past human-rights injustices. His pledge held out the prospect of at least acknowledging, if not addressing, decades of army abuse, authoritarian overreach, and suppression of minority rights. In a part of the world often beset by a form of moral relativism—Our country is fine; others are worse—it appeared to be a significant step forward.

Little tangible progress has materialized, though. While Jokowi has not been directly linked with any human-rights infractions, his presidency has been characterized by a lack of improvement on the issue (rights groups would go further, saying he has in fact presided over a worsening of conditions). An inquiry into an attack on an anti-corruption investigator has gone nowhere; Jokowi’s administration has walked back suggestions that he would formally apologize for a decades-old government massacre; and it has declined requests from international bodies to visit a restive region that wants independence. Though Jokowi now says he wants to address past injustices, human-rights advocates are downbeat about the prospect that he will follow through. And this election has little chance of yielding change: The incumbent is ahead in the polls, and his lone challenger has an even worse track record.

“Jokowi won’t dare to solve human-rights issues,” said Rivanlee Anandar, a Jakarta-based researcher at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, a rights group here known by its acronym in Indonesian, Kontras. “His administration has displayed a regression on human rights.”

Indonesia has a long history of trampling on individual rights. Its first leader, Sukarno, was initially a forceful advocate for liberty as he led the movement that eventually won the country independence, but over his time in power he made more and more authoritarian moves (at one point, he made himself Indonesia’s president for life). Sukarno was eventually ousted in a military coup led by Suharto, a general and someone who, like his predecessor and many other Indonesians, goes by only one name. Suharto’s decades-long authoritarian rule began and ended in violence: In a tumultuous period between 1965 and Suharto finally capturing power in 1967, huge numbers—estimates vary from hundreds of thousands to 1 million—of Communists and suspected Communists were killed, and his resignation in 1998 came in the face of mass demonstrations and riots that left hundreds dead.

Since Suharto’s departure, some progress has been made: New laws were enacted, treaties were signed, and ad-hoc human-rights trials were held, “albeit unsatisfactorily,” said Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, the international monitoring group. One of Jokowi’s predecessors, Abdurrahman Wahid, pushed for greater official acceptance of Indonesians who were ethnically Chinese, a minority group that faced persistent discrimination during Suharto’s rule, and apologized for the massacre that brought Suharto to power (he remains the only Indonesian president to do so). Wahid was, however, later impeached over an array of other scandals and following a power struggle with his successor. Since then, progress on the rights front has languished.

Jokowi had promised to change all of that. While campaigning for president in 2014, he promised, for example, to lift restrictions on international human-rights investigators and on the foreign press visiting the Indonesian region of Papua, where an independence movement has agitated for decades.

In office, it has been a different story. His government has declined to allow the United Nation’s human-rights chief to visit Papua, where rights groups accuse the military of violently suppressing the independence movement, and has restricted access for foreign media there.

And for years, Jokowi eschewed meeting with demonstrators taking part in the “Kamisan” rally, a weekly peaceful protest held in front of Jakarta’s presidential palace calling for the authorities to address past human-rights abuses, before finally relenting this past May (that he attended only in the final year of his term was interpreted as a political move, and drew criticism).

Kontras, in a report released in October assessing Jokowi’s time in office, said Indonesia had fallen backwards on an array of rights-related issues, from the use of the death penalty and extrajudicial killings to disability rights and the persecution of indigenous peoples and minorities. Defamation lawsuits—often used to suppress critical reporting or criticism of those in power—have spiked in the past four years, while frivolous prosecutions, such as the jailing of an ethnically Chinese Indonesian woman for blasphemy after she complained about the volume of sound from a nearby mosque, have proliferated.

Among the most troubling cases has been that of Novel Baswedan. The senior anti-corruption investigator was in the midst of a wide-ranging inquiry in 2017 when someone threw hydrochloric acid at his face. Baswedan had to be rushed to Singapore for treatment, and after undergoing four operations, he still remains almost entirely blind in his left eye. Yet no one has been arrested or prosecuted for the assault.

Concerns have also been raised about the company the Indonesian leader keeps. Among his ministers is a retired general who was placed on a visa watch list by the United States in 2004 and who has been indicted by the UN over his alleged involvement in a series of abuses, including murders, surrounding Indonesia’s withdrawal in 1999 from East Timor, a province it had controlled. Jokowi’s current running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, is a leader of Indonesia’s top clerical body, an organization that under his leadership issued religious declarations in support of female genital mutilation and condemned religious minorities.

Jokowi’s “record on the preservation of human rights, his regard for core democratic principles, his commitment to transparent and accountable government, and his support for a meaningful anti-corruption agenda are all highly dubious,” Tom Power, a researcher specializing in Indonesian politics at the Australian National University in Canberra, wrote in a recent analysis.

There is, if anything, a feeling among some Indonesians that these issues are being given short shrift by a leader who had promised to promote them. “Human-rights tragedies,” Maria Catarina Sumarsih, whose son died in the 1998 riots and who has since become a prominent activist, told me, “are just a political commodity, used to get more votes.”

Jokowi has at least one thing going for him, though: He is not his opponent.

Facing off against the Indonesian president is the same person who challenged him in 2014, the former military commander Prabowo Subianto. Subianto, who was once married to one of Suharto’s daughters, was dogged by allegations of human-rights violations during the previous campaign. A recently declassified U.S. diplomatic cable alleges that the one-time head of Indonesia’s special forces ordered the kidnapping of dissidents in 1998. He has threatened clamping down on the media, and has warned that if he loses the upcoming poll, Indonesia could “go extinct.” (Subianto has, however, appointed former members of Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights to be part of his new campaign team.)

According to Debbie Stothard, the secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights, ordinary voters were beginning to realize that in this election, “it’s a question of who is the lesser evil.”


By: Stanley Widianto
Date: January 18, 2019
Source: The Atlantic

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post, Politics | Leave a comment

Shaping the new world order: The battle for human rights


China is leading the charge in a bid to undermine accepted concepts of human rights accountability and justice.

The Chinese effort backed by autocrats elsewhere has turned human rights into an underrated, yet crucial battleground in the shaping of a new world order.

China is manoeuvring against the backdrop of an unprecedented crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its north-western province of Xinjiang, the accelerated rollout of restrictions elsewhere in the country, and the export of key elements of its model of a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state.

The Chinese effort, highlighted in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2019, is multipronged.

It involves proposals to alter the principles on which United Nations Human Rights Council operates in ways that would enable repressive, autocratic regimes.

To achieve its goal, China is employing its financial muscle and infrastructure and energy-driven Belt and Road initiative to economically entice countries that are financially strapped, desperate for investment and/or on the defensive because of human rights abuses.

China is also seeking a dominant role in various countries’ digital infrastructure and media that would allow it to influence the flow of information and enable its allies to better control dissent.

China is waging its campaign at a crucial juncture of history. It benefits from the rise of ethno- and religious nationalism, populism, intolerance and widespread anti-migration sentiment across the world’s democracies.

The campaign is enabled by the emergence of presidents like Donald J. Trump in the United States, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungary’s Victor Orban and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro who have either deemphasized human rights or gone as far as justifying abuses in addition to seeking to limit, if not undermine, independent media that hold them accountable.

The timing of the Chinese effort is significant because it comes at a moment that predictions of the death of popular protest, symbolized by the defeat of the initially successful 2011 popular Arab revolts, are being called into question.

Mass anti-government demonstrations in Sudan demand the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Anti-Chinese groups march in Kyrgyzstan while protests in Zimbabwe decry repression, poor public services, high unemployment, widespread corruption and delays in civil servants receiving their salaries. The past year has also seen widespread anti-government agitation in countries like Morocco and Jordan.

The protests and what Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth describes in his foreword to the group’s just published, 674-page World Report 2019 as “a resistance that keeps winning battles” suggests that China’s campaign may have won battles but has yet to win the war.

“Victory isn’t assured but the successes of the past year suggest that the abuses of authoritarian rule are prompting a powerful human rights counterattack,” Mr. Roth wrote.

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson warned that “people outside China don’t yet seem to realize that their human rights are…increasingly under threat as Beijing becomes more powerful… In recent years, Beijing has…sought to extend its influence into, and impose its standards and policies on, key international human rights institutions—weakening some of the only means of accountability and justice available to people around the world,”

Ms. Richardson noted that China had last year successfully pushed a non-binding resolution in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that advocated promotion of human rights on the basis of the People’s Republic’s principle of win-win, a principle that cynics assert means China wins twice.

In a sign of the times, the resolution garnered significant support. The United States, in a twist of irony, was the only Council member to vote against it with countries like Germany and Australia abstaining.

China is not the only country that would like a globally accepted approach to be altered to the detriment of human rights. Muslim nations, with Saudi Arabia in the lead, have, for example, long sought to have blasphemy criminalized.

The resolution “gutted the ideas of accountability for actual human rights violations, suggesting ‘dialogue’ instead. It failed to specify any course of action when rights violators refuse to cooperate with UN experts, retaliate against rights defenders or actively reject human rights principles. And it even failed to acknowledge any role for the HRC itself to address serious human rights violations when ‘dialogue’ and ‘cooperation’ don’t produce results,” Ms. Richardson said.

“If these ideas become not just prevailing norms but also actual operating principles for the HRC, victims of state-sponsored abuses worldwide—including in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—will face almost impossible odds in holding abusive governments accountable,” Ms. Richardson cautioned.

In a separate interview, Ms. Richardson described the resolution as “the start of a process to wither away the UN human rights eco system.”

She said human rights groups were concerned “about what China will try to do next, whether it will more aggressively try to change the council’s mandate or nibble away at language in treaties or roll back the role of civil society. China wants inter-governmental cooperation instead of accountability, government officials discussing among themselves with no discussion of accountability for abuses and no participation of independent groups.”

China’s efforts are both an attempt to rewrite international norms and counter sharp Western criticism of its moves against Christians and Muslim and its crackdown in Xinjiang.

Up to one million Turkic Muslims have reportedly been incarcerated in re-education camps that China projects as vocational training facilities. To maintain its crackdown, China depends on a fragile silence in the Muslim world that is fraying at the edges.

In addition to attempting to change the operating principles of the UN Human Rights Commission, lobbying UN and foreign government officials to tone down criticism and invited foreign diplomats and journalists on choreographed visits to Xinjiang, China has at times successfully employed its economic and financial clout to buy either support or silence.

Pakistan, the host of the Belt and Road’s US$45 billion crown jewel, has curbed its initial criticism of the crackdown in Xinjiang.

Similarly, China is pressuring Myanmar to revive the suspended US$3.6 billion Myitsone dam project, which if built as previously designed would flood 600 square kilometres of forestland in northern Kachin state and export 90 % of the power produced to China.

China has reportedly offered in return for the dam to support Myanmar that has been condemned by the United Nations, Western countries and some Muslim nations for its repressive campaign against the Rohingya, some 700,000 of which fled to Bangladesh last year.

In a bid to pacify, criticism of its Xinjiang policy in Central Asia where anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising, China agreed this month to allow some 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to renounce their Chinese citizenship and leave the country.

The decision follows testimony in a Kazakh court of a former employee of a re-education camp detailing three facilities in which up to 7,500 Kazaks and Chinese nationals of Kazakh descent allegedly were being held. The testimony prompted sharp criticism in parliament and on social media.

China and the West’s diametrically opposed concepts of human rights are part of a larger contest for dominance over the future of technology and global influence.

Freedom House, a Washington-based freedom watchdog, reported last year that China was exporting to at least 18 countries sophisticated surveillance systems capable of identifying threats to public order and has made it easier to repress free speech in 36 others.

“They are passing on their norms for how technology should govern society,” said Adrian Shahbaz, the author of the report.

Added Nadège Rolland, a senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Washington think tank, speaking to Bloomberg: “There’s a 1984 component to it that’s kind of scary.”


Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.YOU.


By: Dr. James M. Dorsey
Date: January 20, 2019
Source: Modern Diplomacy

Shaping the new world order: The battle for human rights

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The root cause of corruption


If we want to cut down on corruption, we will have to start working more seriously on reducing the huge chasm between the rich and the poor

Transparency International, a global anti-corruption coalition, ranked India 81 out of 180 countries in its corruption index of 2017. The least corrupt nations were New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Just above India in the list were China, Serbia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ghana (less corrupt). And below India were Morocco, Turkey, Argentina, Benin, and Kosovo (as corrupt or more corrupt).

Now, 81 out of 180 might not seem too bad, especially to sceptical Indians, but it is misleading: often the same rank is occupied by as many as three countries (for instance, rank 71). As such, in terms of numbers, India is placed in the bottom third of the list, if not the last quarter. This should not surprise sceptical Indians.

However, ranking the corruption level of a country is less of a science and more of an art. And it is an art that naturally occludes the advantages — which others might see in terms of invisible corruption — of rich First World nations, where polity and economy, Parliament and corporation often have long-established and uncontroverted relationships. This does not mean that nations like Ghana, India, Morocco and Turkey do not have considerably more corruption than nations like New Zealand and Denmark. What it means is that the ranking game is not sufficient to understand corruption at the global, national and local levels.

Cultural and historical factors

How, then, can we understand the corruption that we find in nations like India? One common option is to employ a cultural perspective. It is attributed to something like national character. For instance, it seems suggestive that all the least corrupt nations listed above, with the exception of Singapore, are European or European-settler states. Even Singapore has a highly ‘Europeanised’ structure, in all regards except that of some citizen rights. Another common explanation is basically historical: for instance, by referring to the top-down power structures of feudal or colonial regimes in places like Morocco, China and India until just a few decades ago.

I will not deny that cultural ethos and historical precedence play a role. After all, both abiding by the law and lawlessness have a domino effect: if you follow the law, other people around you are more likely to do so; if you break the law, other people around you are also more likely to do so. A history of unresponsive authoritarianism might increase the tendency to break laws, if one can get away with it, because the citizen has nothing invested in the status quo. Only fear upholds the law, and the moment the citizen can get away with it, he or she breaks the law. This can also lead to a greater tendency towards corruption.

The most important factor

But culture and history are misleading as primary explanations. Far more important is another factor that few people talk about. If you look at India and the countries around it on the index, and at the top 10 (least corrupt) countries, you realise that the former group contains nations with huge socio-economic inequalities, and the latter contains nations with a high degree of social and economic justice. In that sense, Singapore belongs with the European and European-settler countries ranked as the 10 least corrupt nations. In short, corruption is directly proportionate to the socio-economic gap in a nation. Cultural and historical factors add to this or subtract from this, but the greater the socio-economic disparities, the greater the incentive towards corruption.

This happens in many ways, both among the rich and the poor. For instance, in a country where, say, ₹10,000 is nothing for the rich, it is easy for the rich to offer a bribe of that sum. But if, in the same country, ₹10,000 is what a poor man may earn in an entire month, it is difficult for him to refuse a bribe of that sum. This leads to the gradual erosion of morality and ethics on both sides: some find it easy to spend money to get things done, others find it difficult to refuse to accept that money. On both sides, there builds up a disrespect for the system and for each other. The system itself is seen as thoroughly corrupt because of such individual acts of corruption. This further ‘justifies’ the corruption on both sides. Moreover, the poor look at the affluence of the rich as basically a consequence of corruption, which is by no means the case all the time. And the rich look at the vulnerability of the poor as the consequence of a corrupt morality, which is again by no means the case all the time. Such a nexus saps the entire social fabric of a country, also creating apathy towards demands for greater transparency in the corridors of power. This further leads to the spread of corruption.

If we in India want to cut down on corruption, we will have to start working far more seriously on reducing the huge (and some say, widening) chasm between the rich and the poor.


By: Tabish Khair
Date: January 20, 2019
Source: The Hindu



Posted in Latest Post, Politics, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Millennials, Gen X, Gen Z, baby boomers: how generation labels cloud issues of inequality


Generations can be defined by family structure, stage of life or historical events. But most often, they’re categorised as “cohorts” of people born during a particular period in time. Catchy labels such as baby boomers, millennials and Gen X and Gen Z tend to stick with each cohort, which are assumed to have shared experiences, behaviours and ideals. This is known as a “cohort effect”.

But common generalisations – for example, that baby boomers are hoarding housing, while millennials have no hope of buying a home – can distort or mask the inequalities that exist within and across generations. So rather than pitching the generations against one another, perhaps it’s time to unpack some common assumptions, and question how much one generation really benefits at another’s expense.

The name game

Popular labels are applied to the generations currently living. The “silent generation” are those born from 1925 to 1945 – so called because they were raised during a period of war and economic depression. The “baby boomers” came next from 1945 to 1964, the result of an increase in births following the end of World War II.

After the baby boomers came “Generation X”, from around 1965 to 1976. The term coined by Charles Hamlett and Jane Deverson (originally referring to the Baby Boomers in their teenage years), was made popular by Douglas Coupland’s eponymous 1991 novel. The label reflected the counterculture of a rebellious generation, distrustful of the establishment and keen to find their own voice.

The cohort known as millennials – originally Generation Y – were identified by American authors William Strauss and Neil Howe as those graduating high school in the year 2000. With the popular focus on the millennium at the time, the name stuck. Although the birth date of this cohort can start from as early as the late 1970s, by some accounts, it generally ranges from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s or early 2000s.

“Generation Z” is the current name for the cohort born from the mid-1990s, though iGen, centennials, post-millennials are further possible labels for a generation that has grown up in a hyper connected world. A “new silent generation” is emerging for those born during the early 2000s, since like their great grandparents in the silent generation, their childhood is also deemed to be marked by war and economic recession.

From needy to greedy

Social and political conflict between generations often boils down to the seemingly unfair consumption of resources by the old. During the 1940s, the “needy” older generation were seen as a burden on the tax-paying younger generation. From the 1950s, older people were blocking beds in hospitals, when they should be in their own homes. More recently, older people are being told that they should move out of their homes and stop hoarding family housing.

Today, it’s often said that baby boomers benefited most from the welfare state, during a period when healthcare and education were free, jobs plentiful and housing affordable. There is also a fear that this generation will be the last to have good pensions.

But all of these arguments conveniently ignore the inequalities within generations, which are greater than the inequalities between them. Not only is there considerable inequality within cohorts, even greater divides are created by gender, ethnicity, disability, housing tenure and class.

Take housing, for example. While baby boomers are often accused of hoarding housing, the accumulation of housing wealth is more often a reflection of income and regional variances, rather than age differences. Between 20% and 25% of the housing wealth in the UK is owned by those under the age of 65, who are in the top 20% of the population in terms of income.

Society’s limits

Another example is education. While baby boomers and Gen X may not have paid for their university education, very few were actually able to take advantage. In England and Wales, participation was at 8.4% in 1970 compared to 33% in 2000. Overall levels of education have actually improved over time.

The problems facing younger cohorts have more to do with the social limits to growth than the cost of education. In 1976, sociologist Fred Hirsch suggested that while the economy continues to grow, enabling ever greater consumption, society’s social structures will remain limited.

So, though more people are gaining degrees, only one person can get the job or the promotion. Standing out from the crowd requires ever increasing educational qualifications, work experience or skills training. In Hirsch’s words, “if everyone stands on tiptoe, no one gets a better view”.

With limited opportunities in society, rationing is achieved through higher entry requirements to both the labour and housing markets. The extent to which people can meet those requirements is still a matter of where they were born in the social hierarchy, rather than when they were born.

Indeed, wealth is generally transferred from older to younger generations via inheritance, rather than withheld: the problem is that this reinforces inequalities within cohorts, as richer people benefit more from transfers of family wealth. People’s access to health care, education and housing are determined by policy and the economy, not their date of birth, and the hype about generational conflict only serves to mask the real inequalities in society.


By: Beverley Searley (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Dundee)
Date: January 16, 2019
Source: The Conversation

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment
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