There are five key elements in their plan:
1. Make high-quality childcare available to all
The first five years of a person’s life are to social and cognitive development, yet the UK still has an eye-wateringly expensive childcare system that puts high quality care out of reach to those on low incomes. NEF proposes state support to cap the costs of care at 15% family income, and a vast improvement in the pay, working conditions, training and status of childcare workers.
2. Tackle polarised pay
The economy may be growing overall, but the share of wealth going into employee pay packets is shrinking. Average real wages have been falling continuously for decades, while executive pay rockets skyward. In-work poverty has got so bad that the largest group of people claiming benefits are from families with at least one working adult. NEF proposes a department of labour tasked with rebuilding the link between the UKs overall economic prosperity and wages. Actions include raising the minimum wage, capping wage ratios and stronger collective bargaining.
3. Create good jobs around the country
Our jobs market is not only geographically skewed towards London and the South East – it is hollow in the middle, as positions are increasingly divided between low-paid jobs in care, retail and hospitality and highly-paid jobs in sectors such finance, law and IT.
4. Transform jobs into careers with better training
It is often implied that inequality is the result of the unwillingness of those at the bottom to work hard and climb the ladder. But as young people – graduates and non-graduates alike – are increasingly sucked into dead-end jobs with scant opportunity for progression, the reality is that, for many, this ladder does not exist. We need a major investment drive in training and skills development, at all levels of industry from junior to management (which the UK scores famously poorly on). This could involve promoting pooled training investment by sector and channelling state support towards apprenticeships that lead to progression.
5. Fairer taxes
When you take account of direct and indirect taxes, those on low incomes in the UK are being hit too hard, while billions of pounds each year are being lost through tax avoidance and evasion at the top.
While we might not agree with every detailed proposal in this report, it confirms a growing consensus around key actions to tackle inequality.