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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 16:25 GMT
Inequality 'needs new approach'
Trevor Phillips: Outlined a mixed picture on overcoming inequality
Older workers and disabled people will never secure equality unless new ways of fighting discrimination are found, an interim report says.

An independent panel, the Equalities Review, has been looking into the issue for the government over the past year.

Review chair Trevor Phillips said the findings showed that inequality was "more complex" than previously thought.

"We need to avoid the idea inequality is a consequence of being a particular kind of person," he said.

The report says unless a new approach to tackling inequality is found it will be 2080 before the composition of the House of Commons reflects society, 2085 before the gender pay gap is closed and 2105 before all ethnic groups in the UK have an equal chance of finding work.

Labour market

The report is based on an analysis of published data, 260 responses to consultation, and MORI polling on public attitudes.

It identifies 11 groups at a disadvantage in the UK, including mothers with young children, disabled people and certain ethnic minority groups. It also stresses the economic consequences of such inequalities.

Disability seems to be increasing as a disadvantage
Professor Richard Berthoud

A study for the report by Essex University's Institute for Social and Economic Research identified women with young children, disabled people and Pakistani and Bangladeshi women as being the most disadvantaged groups in the labour market.

Richard Berthoud of Essex University said their study showed patterns of discrimination were changing.

"There's been a huge reduction in the amount of disadvantage experienced by women and especially mothers - it's still high but it's much less than it used to be.

"Whereas at the opposite end of the scale, disability seems to be increasing as a disadvantage," Professor Berthoud told the BBC News website.

'Momentum measures'

Equalities Review researchers estimated the government was losing 9bn a year in revenue as a result of disabled people wanting to work but not being able to get a job.

Women with children accounted for 5.5bn of lost revenue and the government would make an extra 300m if Pakistani and Bangladeshi women did not encounter so many obstacles to getting work, researchers concluded.

But tackling inequality required looking not just at obstacles faced by groups in general but also different rates of progress within those groups, the report said.

Review head Trevor Phillips said such "momentum measures" were key to overcoming disadvantage.

"Within ethnic minority groups some are doing better than others, for example Caribbean boys and girls. We need to focus attention where it is needed even within groups," Mr Phillips said.

The Equalities Review Panel's full report is due out later this year. It is running alongside a separate review of Discrimination Law being carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry.

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