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  • Impera

New Approaches Needed for the UK to Address the Lost Decade of Social Progress

Updated: Apr 19

The United Kingdom has experienced a significant decline in social progress since 2011,



marked by widening inequalities, a drop in secondary school attainment levels, and soaring cost of living. The 2022 Social Progress Index shows that the UK is one of only four countries to have declined in social progress over the past decade with Syria, Venezuela, and Libya.


This decline is against the backdrop of a growing number of people living in poverty, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimating that in 2020/21, around 1 in 5 people in the UK (20%) were in poverty. Not only are more people experiencing poverty, but their ability to improve their quality of life is also being undermined. Additionally, there has been significant increases in discrimination and violence against minorities, with the UK coming in at 93rd out of 169 countries in the 2022 Social Progress Index, plummeting from 29th place in 2011. This overall decline highlights the urgent need to address systemic biases, ensure equal opportunities for all, and reverse the course of the UK to ensure that no one is left behind.


Owning a house in the UK has become increasingly difficult due to soaring prices, increase in mortgage rates, and fluctuating wages. Wages in the UK fell from 4.6% in June 2021 to -3% by June 2022 (Clark, Statista, 2023). This affordability crisis has pushed housing ownership beyond the reach of a significant portion of the population. Full-time employees now spend approximately 9.1 times their annual earnings on purchasing a home, compared to 7.9 times in 2020 according to the Office of National Statistics. In Wales, the figure increased from 5.8 times in 2020 to 6.4 times, showing a clear national increase in unaffordability. In addition, housing prices have increased faster than earning rates in 91% of districts. This disparity highlights the urgent need for innovative solutions to ensure affordable housing options for all.


Secondary school attainment levels have suffered a significant blow over the past decade. The UK now ranks 59th globally, down from 29th in 2011 in the 2022 Social Progress Index. This decline raises concerns about future opportunities for youth, the continuing impact Covid has had on the education system and the quality of education. The Department of Education has stated both GCSE and A-Levels will return to pre-Covid rates this year, meaning another decline from the 2022 results showing academically, there has been no overall change, only a shift to deal with the consequences of Covid. Investing in educational resources, support, and equal access to opportunities is crucial to bridge this gap and provide a solid foundation for the next generation.


The United Kingdom finds itself at a crucial turning point as it confronts the aftermath of the lost decade of social progress with the uncertainty that it will improve in the next year. The decline in social outcomes, such as widening inequalities, increased poverty rates, unaffordable housing, and decline in education, demands urgent attention and concerted efforts.


Impera Analytics' work has shown that tackling these social issues requires comprehensive strategies beyond immediate relief measures. To create pathways for individuals and families to uplift themselves and improve their quality of life, policymakers, communities, and organizations must come together and forge new approaches that address the root causes with analytical, technological and innovative solutions. Place and people-centric policy design at local levels is most likely to drive change forward. We’ve been working with local governments across the UK to establish data tools that help generate targeted place based design interventions at hyper local levels.


Authors: Pye Nyunt and Miyu Fletcher.

Editors: Sophie Sutherland and Valeria Horton

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