Concerns for the equality agenda in a recession

In the current recession, and with significant issues of funding hitting almost everything, new priorities quickly emerge and old ones can suffer. Monday’s edition of the London Times newspaper reported as follows:

Plans to axe new laws that would increase costs for businesses, including enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality legislation, are threatening to blow open a Cabinet rift over how Labour should respond to the economic downturn, The Times has learnt.

The proposals, outlined in the Queen’s Speech just two months ago, and championed by Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, are at risk after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Chancellor called for a moratorium on any measures that would add to the current financial pressure on businesses.

In Ireland, funding for the Equality Authority was reduced very significantly a few weeks ago, and as a result the Authority’s chief executive resigned

It is of course exceptionally difficult to undertake dramatic cuts to public expenditure while still maintaining strategic priorities. However, it is to be hoped that one of the casualties of the recession will not be the equal opportunity principle. As conditions worsen, it may be tempting to regard equality as a luxury, and some may even consider it a bureaucratic cost; but in the end equality of opportunity is what marks out a civilised society, and it is an ideal that should not be sacrificed. It may well be that its implementation should be monitored to ensure that it takes account of the tricky conditions in which many employers and other bodies now find themselves; but respect for people regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and other grounds should never be compromised.

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One Comment on “Concerns for the equality agenda in a recession”

  1. In relation to equality in the academic context, the work of the UK’s Equality Challenge Unit is also very useful:
    On their website they have a piece on delayed implementation of equality legislation.

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