The breakdown of the social contract (and what is to be done)
Five years ago, Progressive Review published ‘The Social Contract in 21st Century Britain’. In our previous editorial, we opened by stating that “eight years of austerity have left our public services and social safety net in tatters”. Today in 2023, in the wake of the pandemic and further public spending cuts, this has only worsened.
Almost across the board, the UK’s public services are failing to deliver for citizens. Last winter it was estimated that failures in the health and care system contributed to hundreds of preventable deaths a week. Waiting lists for NHS treatment in England reached nearly 7.5 million in May 2023, while last year the attainment gap in schools reached a 10-year high.
Almost across the board, the UK’s public services are failing to deliver for citizens
At the same time, public services are experiencing a workforce crisis. Almost 10 per cent of NHS roles were vacant at the end of September 2022 – the worst gap on record. Recruitment and retention has been deteriorating for more than a decade: since 2010 the vacancy rate has quadrupled for nurses and quintupled for teachers. This crisis was recently made even worse by sharp declines in the living standards of public sector workers, as a result of rising prices. Pay increases which failed to tackle inflation fuelled a wave of strikes so large that the public sector lost more days to industrial action than in any other period since comparable records began.
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Jared Whitley, guest opinion writer in the Aug. 26-27 issue of the Daily Herald, presented a disturbing reaction to Utah’s WalletHub ranking as “the worst for gender equality.” He states that time and money spent on gender research has put “society on the path to extinction,” that gender studies are “woe-is-me studies” and are “making everyone miserable.” His final analysis, “Gender ‘progress’ isn’t progress. It’s suicide with extra steps,” is appalling.
According to Whitley, there has been enough progress for Western women because they are better off than women in China and Afghanistan and that men also have challenges of their own, albeit none listed had anything to do with actions of females towards males (violent crime, suicide, killed at work, struck by lightning, etc.). Wild comparisons do not hide the fact that Utah is rated 37th out of 50 states for gender equality and 50th in “friendliness toward gender equality.”
WalletHub rates the status of Utah women in the top 10 in physical activity, good or better health, and low rates of obesity but “worst” in suicide and depression rates, prevalence of rape victimization among females, preventive health care and uninsured rates. Utah rates high in women’s job security, economic clout of women-owned firms and low poverty but “worst” in median earning for female workers, share of women-owned businesses and share of women who voted in the 2016 presidential election.