Recent developments in the equality and diversity agenda in the UK: the 'big society' under austerity

Book chapter

Roper, I. and Tatli, A. 2014. Recent developments in the equality and diversity agenda in the UK: the 'big society' under austerity. in: Klarsfeld, A., Booysen, L., Ng, E., Roper, I. and Tatli, A. (ed.) Handbook of international diversity management at work Cheltenham, UK Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 266-280
Chapter titleRecent developments in the equality and diversity agenda in the UK: the 'big society' under austerity
AuthorsRoper, I. and Tatli, A.

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’.
This chapter, as an update to the chapter by Tatli (2010), outlines the recent developments in equality and diversity at work in the UK. It begins with a brief summary of some key demographics and equality- related statistics. It then summarizes the key points
made in the 2010 UK chapter. The chapter then moves on to identify the key changes in relation to the above mentioned responses to the global financial crisis. Since the publication of the 2010 chapter, the key shift in the equality and diversity landscape in
the UK has been one of ideological and political rather than demographic, cultural or related to any notable shift in the dominant managerial discourse on the issue. As a result, equality and diversity has been radically reframed and resourced around the claims to an approach that pursues government austerity, but combined with a renewed focus on fairness, sometimes referred to in terms of a ‘big society’ agenda. This ideological shift – and its overspill into the framework of statutory rights on the issue – marks a significant change in UK approach to equality and diversity and, therefore, constitutes a key focus in this update chapter.

Research GroupDiversity and Gender group
Employment Relations group
Page range266-280
Book titleHandbook of international diversity management at work
EditorsKlarsfeld, A., Booysen, L., Ng, E., Roper, I. and Tatli, A.
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Place of publicationCheltenham, UK
Publication dates
Print30 May 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Jan 2015
Completed16 May 2014
Output statusPublished
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