Promote Equality With New Social Work Grand Challenge
Promote Equality With New Social Work Grand Challenge

Promote Equality With New Social Work Grand Challenge

Our Grand Challenge for October is here, and it’s one that impacts families, children, and working adults all around America. This month, we’re going to be looking at financial inequality in America, particularly as it impacts impoverished Americans, and what we can do as social workers to change this discouraging trend.

Our AASWSW Grand Challenge for this month is:
Grand Challenge #10: Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ll have read the headlines that the rich are getting richer, while America’s poor are more impoverished than ever. Shockingly, the AASWSW quotes that statistic that “The top 1% owns nearly half of the total wealth in the U.S, while one in five children live in poverty.” This not only impacts current lives, but the development of children into adulthood. The AASWSW’s goal is to work to reverse this concerning trend over the next decade.

The AASWSW identifies several factors that are putting American families in poverty and keeping them trapped in the cycle:

Poor health care access. Poor Americans often are on minimal health care policies, if they can afford health care at all, where they must pay upfront for any treatment. Wealthy Americans, meanwhile, tend to have high quality plans through work. Medical expenses are one of the highest causes of bankruptcy and poverty in the US.

Erratic work schedules. Rather than getting paid time off, many Americans in low wage jobs work on an as needed basis, with wages varying dramatically based on the number of hours the businesses needs them. These employees can also unpredictably get called in at the last minute or asked to leave early when the work day is slow.

Child care access. With many of the working poor having erratic work schedules, arranging child care is difficult. Furthermore, even when available, childcare is often expensive, even for middle class double earning couples, let alone impoverished adults.

Availability of social programs: From basic needs to child case, social programs are becoming more restrictive and harder to access in America. Many require adults to be working, or actively looking for work, which is difficult when work schedules are erratic and affordable child care is hard to find.

Countries that are more economically equal show higher well being and quality of life for all residents. To work toward achieving this in America, the AASWSW recommends policy changes in employment, social safety nets, and policy.

Employment changes. Some US states are starting to implement a $15 minimum wage, the AASWSW strongly recommends we continue to expand this raise to more states. They also suggest new and stronger regulations around part-time work, giving these workers more regular schedules.

Increased social safety nets. Making child care and child care credits low income families can use more easily available to low income families will also help them go to and keep jobs. The AASWSW also suggests continuing efforts to expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to more families, and expanding unemployment insurance.

New wealth distribution policies. Moving current economic policy towards helping the poor would help them build more wealth. Policies the government could change include reducing middle class tax credits like mortgage interest deductions and retirement pensions towards housing for the poor and distributing retirement pay across all older adults.

Get To Work on This Grand Challenge

Whether we work at the policy level or with individual clients, economic inequality is one of the biggest barriers that keeps our clients from getting the help they deserve. Therefore, it’s our imperative to work on this Grand Challenge.

We summarized the AASWSW’s report on economic equality, but to get the full picture, take a few minutes to read their entire report on Reducing Economic Inequality.

Many of the initiatives the AASWSW describes are already in process in some parts of the country. Do your part to refer clients to these programs, or to lobby to bring similar programs to your area. Continue to educate people you know about increasing economic equality in America.

With perseverance and action, social workers can make America a fairer and more accessible place for all.

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