IntoWork17 Blog: What does social justice for all look like?

7th July 2017

By Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director at The Equality Trust

We often hear the term “social justice” bandied about by politicians, but what does it actually mean, and what does it look like? Too often it means a rigid focus on “removing barriers” to the disadvantaged rather than questioning the actions of those at the top.

The Government’s “Troubled Families” programme is a case in point. Aside from blithely stigmatising many low income families as “troubled,” the programme suffered from a hopeless misunderstanding of the root causes of poverty. Poverty is not a result of absent fathers and drug abuse; any more than wealth is purely based on hard work.

Similarly, “social justice” seems to often include a disconnect between how we view the incomes of the rich and poor. We often hear people complain that the tax burden on the rich is excessive and must be reduced, but what of the burden on low income families? Our research found that someone receiving Universal Credit could face a marginal tax rate of 74%. Someone in the richest 1% will face a rate closer to 47%.

Social justice means tackling structural inequality. It means looking differently at our economic, political and social structures; recognising injustice and addressing it. Most importantly, it is about building a society and an economy that benefits the many not the few, and that allows everyone to reach their full potential.