Saving for study

September 10, 1999

The government is rightly alarmed at the pace of social polarisation. As booming shares and rising house prices make the rich richer, the poor, lacking jobs, qualifications, and even access to IT, are shut out of boom town.

Academic experts are warning, and the Social Exclusion Unit is reinforcing the message, that programmes promoting salvation through work - New Deal, working family tax credits - will not be enough. No surprise then that more radical ideas from the US are being explored: capital redistribution through savings accounts with subsidies skewed to poor children. Such ideas may seem impractical but there is just a chance, as former US labour secretary and now Brandeis professor Robert Reich wrote in the New Statesman in June, that they will open a new conversation about something truly important. They could, for example, be a major help in persuading young people from disadvantaged families to invest in higher education.

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