Britain is a class society, with deep social divisions. There are also great differences between different parts of the country. The economy is much stronger in the south than in the north. This results in, among other things, the statistics on life expectancy. Women and men in England live about two years longer than those living in Scotland.
According to a study by the Longevity Science Panel (LSP), published in early 2018, gaps in England have widened since 2001. A man born in the richest areas lives an average of 8.4 years longer than a man born in the the poorest areas. An increase from 7.2 in 2001. For women, the difference was 5.8 years, compared with 5 years 14 years earlier. The figures were taken from Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics for 2015.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in United Kingdom, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
A new grant system
In the wake of the economic crisis, a number of savings have been made within the welfare systems. In 2011, David Cameron’s government began bringing together several different needs-tested grants and tax breaks (including job search grants, housing grants, income support, job tax grants) into a single, Universal Credit. The change is gradual, and at a slower pace than originally planned. The closing date for the new system to include everyone who receives a grant has been postponed several times, most recently to the end of 2023. In the fall of 2017, only 8 percent of the beneficiaries received the new grant. At the same time, harsh criticism was directed at the fact that long waiting times on the first payment, six weeks, put families in difficult financial circumstances.
The purpose of the reform is, according to the government, that it should resemble a situation where the person who has a job has to wait for his salary. The idea is that a single contribution should simplify the welfare system and make it more profitable to work. Contributions are gradually reduced as a household receives more own income. Previously, all support was paid out weekly, but now the payments are made once a month. There is also an upper limit on how much a household can receive in grants. In 2016, subsidy levels were reduced by just over 20 percent. The intention is that poor families should receive a higher basic allowance, while others, who have done better, will receive worse conditions than before. New data in the fall of 2018 suggested that some households could lose up to £ 200 a month. At the same time, the British National Audit Committee said that the new system would be more expensive than the system it would replace.
New rules have also been introduced to get people who have been on long-term sick leave and early retirement to return to work.
Food banks and child poverty
As a result of the government’s austerity policy, appropriations to local authorities fell by 49 percent in real money between 2010 and 2018, forcing them to hard savings especially in poorer areas. Their opportunities to cover this with the help of local taxes, new fees and the sale of municipal property are limited. In some places, money shortages have led to local authorities ending their savings and can no longer provide citizens with the service they are required to do by law, such as garbage collection and road maintenance.
About 14 million Britons lived below the poverty line in 2015/2016, of whom about 4 million were children. Households whose income is less than 60 percent of the country’s median income are counted as poor.
In recent years, hundreds of so-called food banks have been opened to assist people in financial difficulties. One reason why people are in acute crisis is, according to a 2014 parliamentary report, late grant payments, but also high bills on water and electricity.
In the 2010s, around 3.7 million Britons were estimated to suffer from so-called fuel poverty, which means in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that a household spends at least ten percent of its income on electricity and heating its home. England has a different definition of the problem (the statistics also come from different years).
According to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in December 2017, 8 million residents, including 2.6 million children, lived in poverty despite at least one of their parents working. That was over a million more than 2010/2011, and the highest figure was London, with 27 percent. Particularly vulnerable were children who lived with only one parent or families with more than three children. The increases made by the minimum wages and tax cuts introduced for low-income earners were not enough to compensate for the abolished tax deductions for families with children and lower levels of allowance. Especially not as housing costs also rose rapidly. The poorest one-fifth of the population spends about one-third of their income on housing.
Another sign of toughening financial conditions was that every fourth Briton between the ages of 20 and 34 lived at home with his parents. The reasons for this are longer study hours, high housing prices, difficulties in finding work and the changes in the grant schemes.
More than 77,000 households in England were housed in temporary housing in March 2017, an increase of 60 per cent since 2011, according to a report by the British National Audit Office (National Audit Office). More than 120,000 children were included in these households.
Child allowance was previously paid to all children under 16 years. From 2013, the grant has been withdrawn for high-income earners. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2016 that in some cases the UK authorities do not have to pay child support to families from other EU countries. Those families who have multiple grants lost the right to make special tax deductions for children. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2016 that in some cases the UK authorities do not have to pay child support or provide tax relief to families with children from EU countries.
Charity is a common occurrence and accepted in all social groups and by all political parties. Millions of pounds are raised annually by charities to be distributed to individuals, groups of people, schools, hospitals, etc.
Enclosed care system
The UK still has free health care for everyone, the National Health Service (NHS). A smaller sum is charged for prescriptions for medicines. When it comes to cuts, the NHS is a protected area for all major parties. But the money is still not enough. It has been visible for many years on long care queues. In recent years, a number of private alternatives to public health have emerged.
Critics fear that the country is heading towards a healthcare market, where those who can pay for themselves receive better care. However, the cost of care rises rapidly, partly because the need for care increases as the population grows older. In the winter of 2017/2018, there was a crisis in healthcare, not least because of a large shortage of nurses. The NHS was one of the big issues during the 2019 election campaign (see Calendar).
Women have traditionally had a lower retirement age than men, but from 2018, 65 years will apply to both genders. Anyone who wants can work longer. In the longer term, the retirement age for both men and women will be raised to 68 years. In 2012, the rules were changed so that people have the right to continue working even after they turn 65. Many pensioners find it difficult to manage their pension. Nearly 2 million pensioners were counted as poor in 2015/2016. Loneliness and social isolation are other problems that affect many old people. In 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a new minister, Tracey Crouch, to combat this. This was done on the recommendation of a parliamentary commission appointed after the assassination of Labor politician Jo Cox 2016 (see Calendar).
Women are under-represented in decision-making positions, both in business and politics. After the 2017 election, 32 percent of the members of the British Parliament were women, compared with just under 23 per cent in 2010 and 29 percent in 2015. In parliaments in Scotland and Wales the proportion of women is higher, 35 and 50 percent respectively in 2016. In Northern Ireland the proportion was lower: 28 percent.
In the 2017 election, the number of ethnic minority members also increased from 41 to 52. For the first time, a Sikh woman was elected to the lower house. At least 45 members are LGBTQ people, which is an increase of 40 percent since 2015.
Liberal abortion legislation, except in Northern Ireland
The UK has a liberal abortion law, except in Northern Ireland where abortion is only allowed if a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk of being permanently harmed. Many Northern Irish women therefore go to other parts of the UK to have an abortion, and have to pay for the procedure themselves. However, in the summer of 2017, the British government announced that Northern Irish women should be able to do an abortion in England without having to pay for it. The Scottish Government also planned to introduce free abortion for women from Northern Ireland. In the fall of 2015, the High Court in Belfast ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion law violates human rights. In a higher instance, the judges ruled that this is a matter that should be decided by the Northern Ireland provincial government and not by a court.
Same-sex marriage allowed, except in Northern Ireland
Since 2005, gay couples can enter into partnerships, giving them the same rights as married couples in property, pensions and inheritance. Gay couples have the right to adopt children (though not in Northern Ireland). In the 2010s, gay couples in England, Wales and Scotland also got the right to marry. However, religious communities can decide for themselves whether they want to marry two people of the same sex or not. The Northern Ireland Parliament voted in the fall of 2015 to introduce same-sex marriage, but the decision could not come into force because of a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) veto.
Team against slavery
A law against modern slavery was passed in England and Wales in 2015, which meant, among other things, that human smugglers should be sentenced to life imprisonment and more should be done to protect victims who, for example, should be able to obtain legal aid. According to the Home Office, there are believed to be 10,000 to 13,000 people living under slavery-like conditions in the UK.
Prostitution, no offense, except in Northern Ireland
Prostitution does not violate the law in England, Wales and Scotland, but it is prohibited, for example, to carry out brothels. In 2015, Northern Ireland introduced a new law, similar to the Swedish one, which meant that it was forbidden to buy sex but not to sell it. Also in other parts of the country, a similar legislative change has been proposed, but there are also forces that work to legalize prostitution.
- AbbreviationFinder Website: Provides commonly used acronyms, history, politics and geography of country United Kingdom.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 4 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.2 percent (2017)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 100.0 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 99.1 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 9.9 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 3 958 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 32 percent (2018)
The road network is white-branched and largely consists of paved but narrow roads. The UK has left traffic. Both passenger and freight traffic are predominantly on country roads. Almost 10 percent of freight traffic is via rail. In the 2010s, the UK Government has promised major investments in infrastructure, including in the form of new express train connections between southern and northern England.
The world’s oldest metro is in London.
Despite many closures, there is still a dense railway network. Train traffic is currently operated by about 30 private companies. Many Brits complain about high fares, lack of seats and delayed trains.
The tunnel under the English Channel, Eurotunnel, was inaugurated in 1994. It allows you to travel by train from London to Paris in three hours. There are also passenger trains to Brussels through the tunnel.
The British merchant fleet was once the largest in the world, but in 2015 only one percent of the world tonnage was in British ownership (but about half of them were registered in another country). There are some 50 major ports, of which London, Milford Haven, Southampton, Tees and Hartlepool and Liverpool are the most important.
There are about 50 airports. Several of them are important centers of international air traffic. About 78 million passengers passed through Heathrow in London in 2017. In 2018, it was decided that capacity would be further expanded through the construction of a third runway. However, the decision was controversial. The larger airports also include Gatwick and Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham.