Equality and Equity Both equality and equity are about fairness and justice. It is important to know the difference between the two in order to form ideas about what is fair and just as well as to develop ways to change unfair and unjust situations. Simply put, equality is to some extent about sameness and is very often about opportunity. So, people striving for equality are very often attempting to reduce differences between people and ensure that everybody has an equal opportunity to achieve. An example would be campaigning for men and women with the same jobs to receive equal pay for their labour and ensuring that when a new job is advertised everyone has an equal opportunity to apply (i.e., there is no discrimination on the basis of statuses such as sex, age, ethnicity). These are of course admirable aims but if we only ever strive for equality then we will never resolve inequality. This is because there are pre-existing inequalities that need to be addressed before equality can be achieved. To use a health example, say we want everybody to have the opportunity to take part in physical activity we could send everybody in the country a free gym membership. Theoretically everyone is equal in this scenario because they all have an equal opportunity to become members of gyms. However, pre-existing inequalities will mean that it is easier for some people to take advantage of free gym membership than it is for others. For example, it is much less likely to help a single parent living in a deprived area three miles from the nearest gym to be physically active than it is a single man with a steady job who lives close to a gym. Also, many people will already be physically active and may not need a free gym membership. This is why promoting equity rather than equality can be fairer, more just and actually more practical. Equality of opportunity is only really fair if we are all equal to start with but of course this is not the case. Equity is about recognising pre-existing inequalities and therefore treating people differently so that we can achieve some sense of equality. In short, what is equitable is based on a needs basis: support those in need in order to provide everyone with the same opportunities. This is one of the basic principles that inform the argument that rich people should be taxed more than less affluent people. If we return to the previous example of gym membership a more equitable intervention would involve ensuring that everybody had access to a local gym and people who needed support to use it were provided with suitable services, e.g., a single parent may need free/cheap childcare, etc. Also, those who are already able to use a gym would not necessarily receive additional support. So support is not equally distributed but rather delivered on the basis of need. The following image may help you appreciate the significant difference between equality and equity and highlight why promoting equity is so important in our vastly unequal society:
DEADLINE: 29/1/16
CONTACT OLI: o.s.williams@bath.ac.uk