Inequalities are rife within society, despite the UK being a modern, wealthy country there are still issues of class and gender inequality. The government which set and administer public policies try to tackle these issues with various approaches, which can be beneficial to some groups of society but unfavourable for others. The Social Democratic perspective is linked to the Labour party who claim to be for the people. They are sympathetic to the retired, the sick and the disabled as these groups of people live in poverty through no fault of their own. After the war, the Labour government tried to make the proposal of a welfare state, the vision of William Beveridge, come true.
The proposal was designed to defeat poverty, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness through a Welfare State with Social Security, a National Health Service, free education, council housing and full employment. This would be paid for by taxes, so Labour’s general response to poverty is to raise taxes at the dismay of the rich which would be made to pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes, to benefit the lower paid or unemployed. The government are unconcerned as to whether the recipients actually deserve the benefits. For example, someone could be physically able to work but just choose not to, but still claim benefits. This can result in bitterness between the classes and the raising of taxes leave the country at the risk of brain-drain, where highly skilled professionals leave the country to live and work in a country which is more beneficial to their lives. The sociologist, Peter Townsend had conducted extensive research into poverty and was an advocate of the welfare state.
He believed that the inequalities that people faced were linked to relative deprivation. This is the feeling of lacking something when comparing themselves to others in society. This is relative as the something cannot be certain specific things, it depends on what is deemed necessary according to society or what others have. For example, “poverty, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder” (Peter Townsend, 1979). Therefore, when you have a variety of classes and incomes there will inevitably be inequality within society.
An attempt to eradicate inequality within education was to introduce the comprehensive system and abolish the tripartite system. The tripartite system was based on meritocracy and was biased towards boys, as they required lower marks in the 11 + to achieve places at grammar schools. This showed how dated they were as this was because they expected the girls to have little ambition in achieving a good education and aspire to be stay at home mothers. The comprehensive system aimed to be a contrast to this and be equal to all students regardless of gender or class and there would be no entry test, but comprehensive schools today have sets in which children are segregated depending on ability and there are still grammar schools. Therefore, although efforts were made, it is debatable as to whether this change in the education system has been a total success as it is evident there is still inequality within the system.
The Social Democratic perspective clearly has good intentions in their plight to reduce inequality, but Giddens criticises the approach as being outdated, for example, the welfare payments are biased towards the traditional nuclear family and that in modern times other variations of family structures are more common, such as single-parent families due to the increase in divorce. Giddens claims that single mothers who wanted to work were caught in the poverty trap, which Meant they were better off on benefits. This highlights Giddens claims that the welfare state can create problems as it can decrease ambition and decrease funds available to spend on a good healthcare system, education and protection in old age. ‘The higher the proportion of people in work, the higher the tax revenue can generate to spend on these things rather than spending on wasted passive benefits’ (Giddens, 2004).Charles Murray also has a negative view of the welfare state and thinks that the state has become too generous and that this has created an underclass.
Therefore, increasing illegitimacy, violent crime and unemployment. For example, within this underclass, young single mothers are given free council housing within a society of unemployment and violent crime which could influence other young girls into thinking that this is the path they should follow and therefore their children will grow up with violence and unemployment being the norms and following the pattern of their community, creating a vicious circle. The new right perspective which is linked to the conservative party believes there must be inequality and that it encourages people out of situations such as being unemployed with no money to aspire to be successful like others in society, and state benefits will just allow people to survive in poverty. Their view on taxes being increased contradicts the view of labour. They are in favour of corporation tax cuts arguing that the act of reducing taxes increases’ firm’s prosperity to invest and increase confidence that Britain is a “business-friendly” economy.
Reducing business taxes increase wealth, which Theresa may made clear when she stated, ‘We will encourage businesses to grow and create jobs by continuing to cut corporation tax because that is how to raise more money, not less’ (May 2017). In the 2017 Manifesto, they promise corporation tax will fall to seventeen percent by 2020, which is the lowest rate of any developed country. The Conservatives are very much focused on keeping taxes low for the working people too. By 2020 they promise to increase personal allowance to £12,500 and increase the higher rate to £50,000 resulting in greater wealth for the lower earners and the higher earners. On the other hand this has a negative impact on areas such as the NHS, although funding has been protected from cuts, the demand for the service is increasing and targets such as waiting times in A and ambulance response times are not being met, meaning more needs to be done to improve this as working class people are not getting the standard of care that an upper-class person will receive with expensive private healthcare.
Resulting in inequality as private healthcare is not a viable option for all.To conclude, The Social Democratic perspective is more focused on the poor of now and helping them in the short term, with a realistic view of society. whereas the New right perspective aims for equality in the long run and can be criticised for their being idealistic. Of course, each has positives and negatives which create a see-saw effect and it seems impossible to obtain the correct balance to create equality for all.