The Nationam Minimum Wage should be increased to a Living Wage. Photo: Getty
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We haven't yet tackled inequality; here are five ways to reduce it

The coalition boasts that it's reduced inequality, but actually no government policy in the last 30 years has actually come close to bringing it down to average OECD levels.

Inequality is now widely recognised as one of the most important issues affecting our country. Ed Miliband says that tackling inequality “will be Labour’s mission in 2015”, while Cameron Osborne and Cable have boasted that inequality has fallen under their stewardship. But no government policy in the last 30 years has actually come close to bringing inequality down to average OECD levels. 
 
A regularly used excuse for ignoring inequality is the country’s fragile economic recovery. The thrust of the argument is that “one has to think about how to grow the cake before one thinks about how to share it”. It rests on the assumption that high inequality is not only a necessary by-product of a successful economy, but that it is in fact integral to economic growth. The problem with this argument is that it is nonsense. Clearly some level of inequality is required to encourage people to strive. But there is increasing recognition among economists, academics and business leaders that excessively high levels of inequality, as experienced in the UK, are incompatible with economic strength. IMF research has shown that high levels of inequality makes periods of growth rarer and shorter. Germany, Finland, The Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark - the list of nations with higher GDP per capita and lower inequality than the UK is long, and shows that inequality isn’t necessary for prosperity and growth.
 
There is a widespread public belief, borne out by evidence, that economic growth without greater equality doesn’t help most people. People are told that the recovery is underway, but they can’t be fooled into believing their bills are suddenly easier to pay or that there is more money left at the end of the month. Some politicians, such as Nigel Farage, are already appealing to voters who feel left behind, with frequent references to the “elites” who oppose his “people’s army”.
 
The simple truth is, reducing inequality is vital to building a stronger economy. The Equality Trust’s recently published Fairer, Stronger Economy makes some suggestions:
 
All parties should adopt an explicit goal to reduce inequality
The first step in reducing inequality is for politicians to truly commit to the goal of reducing it. Each party should make an explicit commitment in their manifesto to reduce the gap between the richest and the rest. Whichever party wins the next general election should make sure they can be held accountable to that goal, by asking the OBR to vet their budgets to determine their effect on inequality. Last week Labour called for this to be the case for the Child Poverty Target, this must be extended to include inequality. 
 
The rate of the National Minimum Wage should be increased to a Living Wage
Our low wage, low productivity economy is trapping people in working poverty. The main UK parties have voiced aspirations to raise the National Minimum Wage to £7.00 or link its value to median pay, but more can be done. Cutting national insurance for those on the minimum wage and those who employ them can help ensure that everyone takes home a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
 
Accredited vocational courses should be included in the student loans system
At the moment all 18-25 year olds who pursue education outside of the university system get very little help with living costs, while those who go to university get up to £7,751 a year in loans. The student maintenance loan makes university more accessible to people from all backgrounds and only has to be repaid when a person is earning close to the UK median wage. The same generosity  - and respect -should be extended those who invest in their skills outside the university system.
 
The government should establish a Workplace Commission
As recommended by the CIPD the government must convene a Workplace Commission to increase productivity through measures to share more responsibility and reward throughout the workforce, “as if the whole team matters to success”. This could be achieved through better co-ordination between government, employers and skills providers to help create a high skill, high productivity economy
 
The 50p top rate of income tax should be reinstated
Our research shows that increasing the top rate of tax would decrease inequality without harming the economy. It is a popular policy that would mean the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden. All parties must now adopt it. 
 
There is no silver bullet policy that will both reduce inequality and deliver economic growth felt by all. But these proposals would signal a beginning. We need a transformation in the way we view inequality in order to turn our dangerously unstable and unequal economy into a fairer and stronger one, and we need this to start now.
 

Tim Stacey is from The Equality Trust

Tim Stacey is Senior Policy and Research Adviser at the Equality Trust. 

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Manchester united: "A minority of absolute idiots are trying to break us apart"

At the vigil, one man's T-shirt read: "The only thing that's allowed to be separated by colour is the laundry."

A day after one of the worst atrocities in the history of the city, Manchester's people were keen to show the world the resilience of the Mancunian spirit.

Dom's, an Italian restaurant, is in walking distance from Manchester Arena, where 22 people lost their lives to a suicide bomber the night before. On Tuesday, the staff were giving out free coffee, tea and pizza to anyone who needed it. On a table outside, there was a condolences book, and teary passersby left RIP messages to those who perished. Under a bright blue sky, the community seemed more united than ever, the goodwill pouring out of everyone I met. But the general mood was sombre. 

"We need to make space for healing and for building up our community again, and just getting people to feel comfortable in their own city," the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govendor, told me.

The terrorist has been named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old Mancunian of Libyan descent. But with a population of 600,000, Manchester is a cosmopolitan hub, and proud of it. Throughout the day I encountered people of all skin shades and religions. On one of the roads off Albert Square, a couple of Orthodox Jewish boys set up a little stand, where people could grab a bottle of water and, if they so desired, hold hands and pray.

On the night of the tragedy, Muslim and Sikh cab drivers turned off the meter and made their way to Manchester Arena to offer free rides to anyone - many of them injured - who trying to escape the mayhem and reach safety. "It's what we do around here," my taxi driver said with a thick Arabic accent.

The dissonance between the increasingly frantic debate on social media and what was discussed on the streets was stark. I spoke, on and off the record, with about two dozen residents, eavesdropped on a number of conversations, and not once did I hear anyone speaking out against the cultural melting pot that Manchester is today. If anything, people were more eager than ever to highlight it. 

"Manchester has always been hugely multicultural, and people always pull together at times of trouble and need," said Andrew Hicklin. "They are not going to change our society and who we are as people. We live free lives."

It was also a day where political divisions were put aside. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn agreed to suspend their campaigns. For the next few days there will be no Labour vs Tory, no Brexiteer vs Remainer, at least not in this part of the country. This city has closed ranks and nothing will be allowed to come between that cohesion.

"I don't demonise anyone," said Dennis Bolster, who stopped by to sign the condolences book outside Dom's. "I just know a small minority of absolute idiots, driven by whatever they think they are driven by, are the people who are trying to break us apart."

Later in the day, as people were getting off work, thousands flocked to Albert Square to show their respects to the victims. Members of the Sikh community entered the square carrying "I love MCR" signs. The crowd promptly applauded. A middle-aged man wore a T-shirt which said: "The only thing that's allowed to be separated by colour is the laundry." A moment of silent was observed. It was eerie, at times overwhelmingly sad. But it was also moving and inspiring.

Local poet Tony Walsh brought brief respite from the pain when he recited "This is the Place", his ode to the city and its people. The first verse went:

This is the place In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best

And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands

Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music

We make brilliant bands

We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands

On stage, everyday political foes became temporary allies. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, home secretary Amber Rudd, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and house speaker John Bercow all brushed shoulders. Their message was clear: "we are Manchester too."

The vigil lasted a little over half an hour. On other occasions, a crowd this size in the centre of Manchester would give authorities reason for concern. But not this time. Everyone was in their best behaviour. Only a few were drinking. 

As Mancunians made their way home, I went over to a family that had been standing not far from me during the vigil. The two children, a boy and a girl, both not older than 10, were clutching their parents' hands the whole time. I asked dad if he will give them a few extra hugs and kisses as he tucks them in tonight. "Oh, absolutely," he said. "Some parents whose children went to the concert last night won't ever get to do that again. It's heartbreaking."

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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