Inequality costing UK economy £34bn a year, says Labour

Inequality in the jobs market is costing the UK economy £34bn a year, according to new analysis by Labour shared with The Independent.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party accused the Conservatives of “dismal failure” in tackling unfairness at work – arguing Britain is “less productive and less equal” after 14 years of Tory rule.

The opposition is vowing to close the major employment gaps which see women, disabled people and black, Asian and ethnic minority Britons facing costly barriers.

Labour’s shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds will today say that the state of inequality in the UK is “a scandal we cannot afford”.

As election-year pitches heat up, Tory chancellor Jeremy Hunt is said to be considering extending child benefits to more middle-class families in a pre-election budget giveaway.

Labour insists that the ethnicity employment gap is costing the economy around £20bn a year, pointing to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The stats show that the current employment rate of “all other ethnic groups combined” is 68.4 per cent – nine points below that of white people (77.1 per cent).

Closing that gap would mean an additional 650,000 employees in the economy, sparking a major boost to tax revenues and growth, say Labour.

Labour’s Anneliese Dodds says inequality is ‘scandal we cannot afford’ (PA)
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds says inequality is ‘scandal we cannot afford’ (PA)

Helping the 333,000 women who have left work due to menopause to stay in work would add up to £11bn to the economy, the research also shows.

And closing the disability employment gap by just 2 per cent points to the OECD average could also provide an additional £3bn to the UK economy.

Speaking at the Fabian Society conference on Saturday, Ms Dodds will slam the Tory government’s record of “dismal failure” on inequality at work.

She will argue that employment gaps have seen women, black, Asian and ethnic minority people and disabled people “put more and more in and get less and less out”.

The party chair will pledge that equality will “run through Labour’s plans like the words in a stick of rock”, as she sets out a plan to close employment gaps.

The party says banning zero-hours contracts will benefit some black, Asian and ethnic minority workers who are disproportionately impacted. The party has promised to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for firms with more than 250 staff.

Large employers will be required to produce “menopause action plans” to set out how they are supporting women experiencing menopause at work, and providing guidance for small employers.

Sir Keir’s party has also committed to more specialist help for disabled people at job centres, as well as introducing disability pay gap reporting for large employers.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is said to be planning an extension of child benefit (PA)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is said to be planning an extension of child benefit (PA)

It comes as a new report suggests Mr Hunt is considering a plan to extend £2,000 a year child benefit to a much greater number of middle-income families.

The chancellor is mulling whether to raise the £50,000 threshold at which child benefit starts to be withdrawn, according to The Times. Raising it to £60,000 would cost around £1bn, while ditching any income limits would cost £4bn.

However, Mr Hunt is said to be plotting a spending squeeze on departmental spending to help fund his tax giveaways. Day-to-day spending limits, currently set to rise by 0.9 per cent in real terms until 2028-29, could be cut, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt are widely expected to announce further tax cuts in the March Budget in a bid to boost their party’s dire polling fortunes. Tory MPs have expressed their preference for cuts to income tax rather than moves to slash or axe inheritance tax.