World needs to tackle wealth inequality - GulfToday

World needs to tackle wealth inequality

Wealth inequality

The gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies.

The scale of global inequality is staggering and the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast. The subject cannot be ignored anymore and needs to be addressed in all sincerity.

With millions of people still living in extreme poverty, Charity group Oxfam’s revelation that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 per cent of the planet’s population should be seen as a wake-up call for action.

Global inequality is shockingly entrenched and the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade.

As Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar points out, the gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these.

Enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly poor women and girls cannot be a way forward.

While individuals getting rich should not be per se seen as a hindrance, what is desirable is to adopt appropriate ways to tackle the inequality that keeps millions of people poor.

Figures startle.

As per Oxfam, the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.

Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.

Interestingly, getting the richest one per cent to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.

Women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload. Across the globe, 42 per cent of women of working age cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six per cent of men.

Women also make up two-thirds of the paid ‘care workforce’. Jobs such as nursery workers, domestic workers, and care assistants are often poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll.

A serious note should be taken of the fact that many governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle inequality.

At the same time, governments are underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload.

For example, as Oxfam officials assert, investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life. For example, providing access to an improved water source could save women in parts of Zimbabwe up to four hours of work a day, or two months a year.

The scale of global inequality is staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda.

The best way out is to tackle tax evasion, improve public services, tax capital rather than labour and introduce living minimum wages. All such measures that can help ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth should be implemented.

The goal should be for the global leaders to take appropriate action so as to tackle extreme inequality and eradicate poverty.

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