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Economic inequality in Wales

23 May 2011


Disadvantage begins at birth and continues through education, employment and retirement in Wales, a major new University report has helped uncover.

The landmark report, created between the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has collected new evidence which paints a picture of a country deeply entrenched in inequalities.

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‘An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in Wales’ examined the impact family background may have on a person’s chances in life.

Seen through the lens of people’s characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, age and disability, the report suggests that for some, disadvantage begins at birth and continues through into education, employment and retirement.

Often these issues may be passed onto the next generation.

Professor Teresa Rees, School of Social Sciences, said: "This thought-provoking report should play a major role in evidence-based policy in Wales designed to tackle both long running and newly discovered forms of inequality.

"Crucially, poverty should not be something parents pass on to their children."

The key findings from the report reveal:

  • Pupils eligible for free school meals are 2.5 times less likely to get A*-C grades in core subjects than their peers
  • 74% of disabled people and 46% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi people are not in employment or full-time education
  • 20% of people in Wales live in poverty
  • Almost 50% of single parents live in poverty and so do 13% of in-work households
  • Muslim men are 50% less likely to be in work than Christian men
  • Male graduates earn £15.40 per hour on average and male non-graduates £9.10
  • Women graduates earn £13.53 per hour on average and non-graduates £7.33

However, the report adds the gap between the rich and the poor in Wales is narrower than the rest of the UK.

Kate Bennett, National Director for Wales, Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "I challenge anyone looking at this report not to find at least one surprising fact about how we live in today's 21st Century Wales.

"We all know that feelings of being valued, respected and trusted are lower in societies with a big gap between the rich and poor.

"If we are to realise a strong and confident Wales for the future poverty and disadvantage cannot be something that is handed down by parents to the next generation".

WISERD is a collaborative venture between Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan and Swansea Universities. It is a National Research Centre for interdisciplinary social science research.

It draws together and builds upon existing expertise and research across Wales in quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, methodologies and analyses.

The report will be discussed in one of the many keynote addresses at WISERD's second annual Summer conference entitled, 'Changing Wales: Social, Economic and Political Perspectives'. The two day conference (June 28-29) held in Swansea's Sketty Hall, will also include a range of round table discussions and paper presentations.

For the full programme and more details, please click here.

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Listen to Dr Rhys Davies, a Research Fellow at WISERD who coordinated the research team, explain more about the report