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More cutbacks mean more riots

London riots : copyright ReutersNew research by Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby at the University's School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Research has shown that across 26 developed welfare states between 1980 and 2005 greater poverty, privatisation of public services and job insecurity has led to increased social disorder.

His research provides the strongest possible social science evidence across a range of countries, and for a considerable time-period, that the kinds of changes the UK government is pursuing generate social disorder.

For the study, Professor Taylor-Gooby, who has previously advised the UK government on public policy reform, analysed the relationship between social disorder and increased poverty, greater job insecurity and privatisation in developed western countries such as France, Germany and the USA. When societies are compared, those with rapid increases in the numbers in poverty are on average in the top third by the number of major incidents of civil unrest. Similar relations are found for job insecurity and reliance on private rather than welfare state services.

Data on poverty, privatisation and job insecurity from established international sources prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the leading intergovernmental body analysing social data, was used for the study. Social disorder was measured on a scale which summarises data prepared by Harvard University. This includes three kinds of activity: riots involving more than 100 people, political demonstrations of more than 1000 people against government policies (not including immigration or foreign policy issues) and strikes across several employers against government policies.

Professor Taylor-Gooby said: 'The UK government's social programme involves the most profound policy changes for at least two generations. It is now beginning to bite. Projections by the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicate that about 500,000 more children will be in poverty by 2015. The reforms to the NHS and social care, the harsh cutbacks in funding for Sure Start and for local government and the policy of contracting services like the Work Programme to the commercial sector will privatise a substantial part of state services. More stringent eligibility tests for benefits and changes to employment protection in a context of rising unemployment mean greater job insecurity.

'Last summer the poorest areas of big cities experienced the most violent riots for a considerable period. This was followed by major demonstrations and the largest strikes against government policies - particularly the public sector pension cuts - since the 1980s. Similar unrest is evident elsewhere in Europe. As 2012 progresses we will see further increases in poverty, rising unemployment, greater insecurity for those in work and more privatisation as the welfare state is cut back. We will also see more riots, demonstrations and strikes disrupting our cities.'

A draft copy of 'Riots, demonstrations, strikes and the Coalition programme' (Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent), containing the full analysis of this data, is available upon request.


Story published at 2:50pm 31 January 2012

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