Today the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) launches its An Economy for All report about rethinking Scotland's economy.
Focusing on how we can make the economy work for the many, not just the few, it outlines how reducing inequality can help us to build a stronger economy. By building our economy around people's needs (secure jobs, health and happiness), we'll see inequality drop and economic growth rise.
By putting people at the heart of the economy, growth will follow. Charities and the wider third sector have a unique perspective on the economy.
The people affected by welfare changes, stagnant wages and under- and unemployment are the very people whom our sector works with every day, at food banks and in advice centres, attending youth clubs and work programmes, making the most of community groups and support centres.
Day after day, we see how poor economic choices have impoverished families across Scotland and abroad, damaging communities and their environments.
Why shouldn't poverty and inequality be actively reduced by the economy, rather than increased by it?
The report applies this logic to the economic debate and calls for four key principles for a new economy. First, the wellbeing of people across Scotland must be the end goal of our economy. Second, all work must be properly valued, decently paid and secure. Third, the value of unpaid contributions to the economy and society must be recognised. Fourth, the economy is a part of our environment and we must use our economy to enhance, not destroy, our environment.
These principles should not just be followed to "do good". They should be followed because they will reduce inequality, and reducing inequality will make our economy stronger.
The report also brings together suggestions from across the world about how we can make the economy work better. Some are radical and others less so, but all of them can be implemented within our capitalist system, so we are not demanding a complete overhaul of the status quo.
But we also need to make sure that a growing economy leads to improvements in health outcomes, reductions in poverty and better communities.
We want an improved economy to improve life for everyone. The report examines a range of options that could help to make this a reality:
l Different ways of doing business and being more ethical in how we treat employees and suppliers at home and abroad, including in terms of pay, job security and autonomy.
l Alternative ways of measuring the economy, not just focusing on productivity but also on levels of inequality, job security, the state of communities and their environment.
l Improving tax by making it redistributive and fair so that those who can afford to pay the most do so.
l Thinking outside the box, with ideas such as a shorter working week that would enable people to participate more widely in society.
None of these ideas is new and many are already securing great results elsewhere but together they could solve a lot of problems. As Martin Wolf, the economic commentator, stated recently, even the International Monetary Fund, the most economically staid of institutions, accepts that lower inequality drives faster and more durable growth.
Of course, any change is going to be a slow and tricky process, especially when there are so many vested interests in maintaining the status quo, but we need to accept that our economic model failed in 2008, and it is continuing to fail. If we don't make changes, people will continue to be trapped in generational poverty and the economy won't grow.
We simply can't keep repeating the same mistakes. We need to completely rethink our economy and come up with a new economic strategy that works for people and for business.
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