Who are the Five Giants?

Who are the Five Giants?

It's been 81 years since the Beveridge Report in Britain laid the foundation for the modern welfare state. It aimed to eradicate the five “giant evils” of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. It also aimed to increase the competitiveness of British industry by producing healthier, wealthier and more productive workers.

"The sustained post-second-world-war period of economic growth and near full employment that lasted until the late 1970s saw falling poverty, slum clearance, the founding of a free health service and education system alongside rising real incomes and falling inequality – which, in turn, led to higher tax revenues and helped the UK pay off its war debts. In 1950, Seebohm Rowntree – who had surveyed poverty in York in 1899 and 1936 – concluded that the problem had largely been erased." The Guardian 2017
Want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness: are Beveridge’s five evils back?
It’s 75 years since the Beveridge report paved the way for the welfare state, and the UK is again plagued by the problems he aimed to eradicate – from insecure jobs to malnutrition
"...the good work done by the Beveridge Report is in grave danger of being entirely undone. The “five giants” are creeping back into the mainstream of our daily life. As they do, our productivity crashes through the floor. Full-year figures for 2015 show the UK’s productivity gap with other countries standing at its worst since modern records began. What would Beveridge find if he were to report today?" The Guardian 2017

Are the five evil giants back, albeit in disguise?

Today we would call Want, Poverty. While many countries have made significant strides in reducing absolute poverty, relative poverty remains. Food insecurity, the digital divide and access to basic services define the experience of those in poverty.

While disease is still familiar, the nature of it has changed. Almost half of Australians (47%, or 11.6 million people) have one or more of chronic health condition, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with mental health being of particular prevalence, alongside the challenges of an ageing population.

Today, the evil giant of Ignorance would be called a lack of education.

The Australian Government has conceded it does not know how many Australians lack basic literacy skills. The last comprehensive study, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2012, put the figure at 3 million people, but no up-to-date data exists.
Warning decline in Australia’s adult literacy being hidden by lack of data
New national study to be launched to document deterioration in basic reading and writing skills, particularly in Tasmania

Squalor might be homelessness or inadequate housing. In Australia there are more than 200,000 people in need of social or affordable housing. While rental or mortgage stress, an unaffordable private housing market with high barriers to entry and high levels of debt, pose new threats.

Idleness would be unemployment. Underemployment, job insecurity, and the challenges posed by automation and the gig economy are now common. There's also a growing emphasis on work-life balance, mental well-being at work, and the right to meaningful employment.

"As we claw our way out of the wreckage of a global economic crash that has had a warlike impact, triggering spending cuts unprecedented in modern times, there is a sense in which the UK faces another revolutionary moment. The battered remains of Beveridge’s welfare state need rebuilding and redesigning for the 21st century, for the digital era and for a society that expects a very different relationship with government." The Guardian 2014
The Beveridge report revisited: where now for the welfare state?
After unprecedented public spending cuts, we revisit Sir William Beveridge’s welfare state 70 years on and explore the modern evils that society professionals must battle and defeat

How then do we rebuild the welfare state for the 21st century?

How do we accommodate these growing and diverse needs with budget pressures in mind. How do we support people to be healthier and more productive workers?

In an attempt to answer these questions, we will venture into an imagined future, where we might, one day, slay the five giants.

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