The United Kingdom is bound by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) and has the sixth highest GDP in the world. Yet, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in both their 2002 and 2009 Concluding Observations, raised concerns that the UK is failing to adequately secure these rights.
Why is it, for instance, that 13 million people in the UK, 3.9 million of whom are children, live in poverty? This poverty has a disastrous impact on the right to obtain the highest attainable standard of living. For example, a child born in the affluent area of Lenzie North in Glasgow has a life expectancy of 82, compared with a child born in the disadvantaged area of Carlton who has a life expectancy of just 54. For many people in the UK, the right to just and fair working conditions is a figment of the imagination. Almost 50 per cent of home workers, for instance, and around 20 per cent of migrant workers, may be paid less than the minimum wage, some earning as little as £1 per hour.
But it seems likely that the situation is set to get even worse due to proposals to cut £34 billion from spending on public services by 2012-13 (excluding cuts to welfare benefits). The impact of cuts in spending on public services will be severe, with an average cut to households of £1,308 per year. The cuts are also set to exacerbate inequality, with the poorest tenth of households losing income and services equivalent to 20.3% of their household income compared to just 1.5% for the richest tenth of households.
In short, there is a real and pressing need, in light of the UK’s deep rooted inequality and extensive public service cuts, to advocate for the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the UK and ensure that everyone enjoys their human rights to health, employment, education, social security and an adequate standard of living.