Explain how income inequality is measured and evaluate the causes of the sharp rise in income inequality in the UK (or a country of your choosing) over the last 20 years.

MML125533: Economics of Inequality

2023-2024 - Trimester A 

Final Exam Questions

Please choose one of the topics below and submit an essay before January 12th, 2024.

Essays should be 3,000 words +/- 10% (including references but excluding the bibliography given at the end of the essay). For assessment criteria and details, please see pages 4 and 5 of the Module Handbook.   

1. Explain how income inequality is measured and evaluate the causes of the sharp rise in income inequality in the UK (or a country of your choosing) over the last 20 years.

2. Analyse the conceptualisation of poverty and outline the main approaches to measuring poverty in the UK (or a country of your choosing) and discuss its limitations. 

3. What are the gender implications in using the household as the unit of analysis in poverty research?

4. What can we learn from using intersectional analysis to understand global inequalities in informal and formal markets? Include at least one care-related or economic theory and one or more case study examples to explain your point.

5. Discuss why care work is undervalued globally and needs public investment. Use either feminist economic theory or Tronto and Berenice`s four phases of care framework.

 6. Is there such a thing anymore in terms of the 9-5 standard job? Discuss about precarious work and the growth of the ‘GIG economy’. 

 7. Despite women’s increased labour market participation in recent decades, horizontal and vertical gender inequalities persist. Discuss in relation to not only gender but to other forms of inequality. 

 8. Does the rise of flexible working contribute or hinder the pursuit of tackling inequality? Discuss in relation to gender, work performance, and caring responsibilities.

9. Define labour market discrimination and discuss its economic and social consequences for migrant workers. 

10. Outline some of the main problems in using GDP as a measure of economic and social progress and discuss the feasibility of alternative approaches. 

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Care work, a fundamental aspect of human well-being, remains profoundly undervalued globally. This essay explores the reasons behind this undervaluation and argues for the necessity of public investment, utilizing feminist economic theory and Tronto and Berenice’s four phases of care framework to support the analysis.

Understanding Care Work

Care work encompasses activities related to the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of individuals. This includes childcare, eldercare, healthcare, and domestic tasks. Despite its critical role in sustaining society, care work is often seen as low-status and low-paid labor.

Feminist Economic Theory

Feminist economic theory provides a lens to understand why care work is undervalued. It highlights how traditional economic models ignore the non-market contributions of care work, typically performed by women. This invisibility in economic analyses leads to inadequate compensation and recognition.

Tronto and Berenice’s Four Phases of Care

Tronto and Berenice’s framework divides care into four phases: caring about, taking care of, caregiving, and care receiving. Each phase illustrates different aspects of care, emphasizing its complexity and necessity. However, the framework also reveals how care work is marginalized within societal structures.

Historical Context

Historically, care work has been seen as a natural extension of women’s roles within the family. This gendered division of labour has led to its economic and social undervaluation.

Economic Factors

Economically, care work is undervalued due to its non-market nature. Activities not directly generating profit are often overlooked in GDP calculations, leading to a lack of financial recognition and investment.

Social Perception

Socially, care work is often perceived as low-skilled labour, despite requiring significant emotional and physical effort. This perception contributes to its undervaluation and the low wages associated with care professions.

The Need for Public Investment

Public investment in care work is essential for several reasons:

  1. Economic Stability: Investing in care work can lead to economic stability by creating jobs and reducing unemployment rates.
  2. Gender Equality: Proper compensation and recognition of care work can help bridge gender wage gaps and promote gender equality.
  3. Improved Quality of Care: Investment can improve the quality of care provided, benefiting the well-being of care recipients.

Global Examples

Several countries have recognized the importance of investing in care work. For instance, Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway have implemented robust public investment in care services, leading to better quality care and higher levels of gender equality.

Challenges in Public Investment

Despite the clear benefits, several challenges hinder public investment in care work:

  1. Budget Constraints: Governments often face budget constraints and may prioritize other sectors over care work.
  2. Policy Resistance: There may be resistance to policy changes that reallocate resources to care work, especially in traditionally male-dominated societies.

The Way Forward

To address the undervaluation of care work, a multi-faceted approach is needed:

  1. Policy Reform: Governments should reform policies to recognize and compensate care work adequately.
  2. Public Awareness: Increasing public awareness about the importance of care work can help shift social perceptions.
  3. Educational Initiatives: Educational initiatives to train and certify care workers can elevate the status and professionalism of care work.


Care work is crucial yet undervalued globally due to historical, economic, and social factors. Public investment is essential to address this undervaluation, promote gender equality, and improve care quality. Utilizing feminist economic theory and Tronto and Berenice’s four phases of care framework, this essay underscores the need for comprehensive policy reforms and societal recognition of care work’s vital role.

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