Conclusion: Our Economy | Oxfam | Sustainability

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The Whose Economy? seminar series was held in Scotland in 2010 – 2011, with the purpose of providing a space for researchers, representative organisations, policy-makers and people with experience of poverty to come together and explore the causes of poverty and inequality in today’s Scotland. The outcomes of the seminars are summarised in this paper. Participants deemed it possible to overcome poverty in Scotland and the UK, through allocating the countries’ resources in a more effective and sustainable way
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    Oxfam Discussion Papers Conclusion: Our Economy  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper Professor Mike Danson and Dr Katherine Trebeck September 2011   www.oxfam.org.uk   Conclusion: Our Economy  ,  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 2 About the authors Katherine Trebeck  is a Research and Policy Advisor with Oxfam ’s UK Poverty Programme in Scotland. Email:  ktrebeck@oxfam.org.uk   Mike Danson  is Associate Dean of Research & Commercialisation Reader in Economics and Management at the Business School of the University of the West of Scotland Email: michael.danson@uws.ac.uk  Whose Economy Seminar Papers  are a follow up to the series of seminars held in Scotland between November 2010 and March 2011. They are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and policy issues. These papers are ‘ work in progress’ documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam. For more information, or to comment on this paper, email ktrebeck@oxfam.org.uk   Conclusion: Our Economy  ,  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 3 Contents Whose economy? .................................................................................... 4    A way forward ...................................................................................... 4   So what next? ...................................................................................... 5     Conclusion: Our Economy  ,  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 4 Whose economy? The authors of the Whose Economy  papers and the ideas, comments and observations of participants at the four Whose Economy  seminars reveal that the model of the economy that has dominated the UK for most of the last century has proved itself outmoded, outdated, and has failed all but the few. The seminars explored to what extent persistent poverty exists alongside high economic prosperity, leading to significant inequalities in income and wealth, and in life chances and lifestyles, between individuals and communities. They asked why this is the case and, why, despite decades of economic growth, regeneration and anti-poverty policies, many Scots face a life characterised by high mortality, economic inactivity, mental and physical ill-health, poor educational attainment, and increasing exclusion. Presenters in the seminars explored the roots of poverty in Scotland, examining their historical and structural srcins and how, in recent decades, the economy has shifted from one based on manufacturing to a service-led, supposedly ‘knowledge economy,’ 1  with retail and call centres expanding as manufacturing declines. Yet, as explored in the seminars, work in such an economy is not necessarily a route out of poverty, as many jobs do not pay enough to live on. Discussion probed deeply into the implications of this mode of economic development, particularly for those experiencing poverty. As the contributions to this series of papers show, being poor in a rich country like the UK is intensely stressful, and made worse by stigmatisation both in the media and as result of political rhetoric. Pressures to consume stem from a culture that elevates passions and image above relationships, community contribution, and care for others and the environment.  A way forward Yet the seminars contained an undercurrent of optimism, that it is  possible to overcome poverty, both in Scotland and the UK. As the sixth richest country in the world 2  we certainly have adequate resources to do so. Participants called for the allocation of these resources in a more effective and sustainable way. They acknowledged a greater role for businesses –  whether by paying taxes, increasing their employment of people further from the labour market, or by offering decent jobs in sustainable industries. Higher expectation needs to be placed on businesses to deliver social sustainability, particularly in return for the array of state support that businesses receive. Many seminar presentations and several of the papers in this series explained how social protection measures such as education, minimum wage regulations and social safety nets are strong mechanisms to increase equality. They argue that social protection needs to be advocated and delivered as a collective good on which we all depend and from which we all benefit, not as a financial drain. Social protection needs to be funded fairly –  by progressive taxation so that those
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