Second Edition Country Perspectives on Diversity and Equal Treatment
Edited by Alain Klarsfeld, Lize A.E. Booysen, Eddy Ng, Ian Roper and Ahu Tatli
Chapter 14: Recent developments in the equality and diversity agenda in the UK: the 'big society' under austerity
The UK labour market and society are characterized by a vibrant diversity generated by a combination of factors. These factors include migration associated with the country's post-colonial legacy and to its more recent membership of the EU. It includes the relatively recent demographic shifts related to feminization of the labour market and with an ageing population. It also includes the increased visibility of religious and sexual minorities and of disabled people. Yet, inequalities and disadvantage continues to persist for members of some demographic groups spanning gender, ethnicity, age, disability and sexuality. Confronting discrimination in UK workplaces, in common with other coutries, has been based on a combination of regulatory pressure, derived from a variety of civil society pressures, and of voluntary measures introduced by employers, based upon business-case arguments about the potential benefits of promoting a diverse workforce representative of the social demographic characteristics of the local labour market and customer base. The equilibrium of this balance has not developed evenly and incrementally, however. As Dickens (2007) notes, there has never been a consensus over the extent of what is desirable with regards to equality and diversity, nor the means by which this consensus should best be achieved. The equilibrium that UK equality and diversity at work appeared to have settled at, has been disrupted as a consequence of the global financial crisis after 2008 and the subsequent election of a coalition government whose policy agenda for 'tackling the deficit'.
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