The current UK government’s policies include headlong spending cuts and a far-reaching restructuring of public provision. These policies have failed in their stated objectives of reducing the deficit and kick-starting growth. The response is to cut welfare even more harshly. New research by Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby at the University of Kent shows that cut-backs, welfare state privatisation and increases in poverty also lead to social disorders such as the riots in the summer of 2011. The distractions of the Olympics and the Jubilee gave a breathing space in 2012. We can expect more riots during 2013.

Data from the IMF shows that public spending in the UK is falling rapidly below the position it occupied for most of the post-war period at the mid-point of the group of large developed Western nations, the G7. The UK will spend less on state services than the current lowest spending members of the group, the US and Japan in three or four years time. The outcome is likely to be a continued period of unrest.

The study, published in Social Policy and Society, analyses data from 26 developed Western countries covering more than two decades. It uses media reports to chart riots, demonstration and major strikes. The spending cuts and other policy changes are measured by means of data  from the authoritative Organisation for Economic Cooperative and Development. The work takes into account differences in national approaches to welfare.  The deeper the cuts, the more riots, demonstrations and strikes.

The research confirms the view that the welfare state not only reduces misery at the bottom of society, it also has wider benefits in promoting solidarity and constraining social conflicts. Many people believe that a strong welfare state helps to ensure political stability and social cohesion. One reason for the rapid growth of social spending after the second world war was the determination that political struggles and general strikes of the pre-war decades should not recur. The particular contribution of this study is that it uses rigorous statistical methods to confirm the contribution of social spending to social peace.

Read the full article ‘Riots, Demonstrations, Strikes and the Coalition Programme’ here

Post written by Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent, UK

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