Today Oxfam launches our new Even It Up campaign in countries around the world, calling for world leaders to prioritise closing the gap between the richest and the rest.
The gap between rich and poor is spiraling out of control. Just 85 individuals have the same wealth as half the people on our planet. Such extreme economic inequality is hurting us all, and standing in the way of ending global poverty.
It is as unfair as it is uneven. Such stark inequality is the result of political and economic choices. The rules are rigged in favour of the rich at the expense of everyone else. So whilst the wealth of the few grows greater, the poorest get left behind.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The rules can be changed, the inequality can be reversed. The time is now.
Together, we can end extreme inequality. Together, we can Even It Up.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO END EXTREME INEQUALITY?
Governments can start to reduce inequality by changing the rules and systems that have led to today’s inequality explosion, and by prioritising policies that redistribute money and power. They must reject market fundamentalism and oppose the special interests of powerful elites. The people must not be left behind.
We must see an end to the skyrocketing executive pay and poverty wages that are a recipe for growing inequality. A South African platinum miner would need to work for 93 years just to earn the average CEO’s annual bonus, and 600 million women work in jobs that are insecure and typically not protected by labour laws. Providing living wages and decent working conditions, protecting the rights of workers to organise, and giving workers a say in decision-making can start to reverse inequality.
There is also an urgent need to make tax systems work harder to tackle inequality. In Nicaragua the poorest people pay a higher percentage in tax than the wealthiest. Tax dodging by corporations and wealthy individuals robs public budgets around the world of hundreds of billions of dollars. Transfer pricing is just one corporate tax dodging strategy that causes Bangladesh to lose the equivalent of 20 percent of their primary education budget each year. Governments must ensure that the taxburden falls fairly so that those most able to pay contribute more, and put an end to fragmented global rules and tax loopholes.
Free publicly provided services like health and education can help to tackle inequality. But too many governments, under pressure from special interests, are privatising services and charging user fees that undermine this potential, and undermine the rights of their citizens. Universal child benefits, oldage pensions and unemployment protection, could have the same equalising effect and ensure everyone can live free from fear. Economic policies should be assessed so that they tackle economic and gender inequality together. Free public services, child benefits and minimum wages would start to pay this double dividend.
‘Beware fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming.’ Nick Hanauer, billionaire
Recent mass demonstrations from Chile and Brazil to Iceland and Hungary have shown that people around the world are unwilling to stand for unfair tax systems and a lack of quality services. People are concerned that their governments are acting not in their interests, but on behalf of national and international elites. Governments must be forced to listen to the people not the plutocrats. This is why Oxfam is joining a growing movement campaigning for an end to extreme inequality, and asking decision-makers everywhere what they will do to make this a reality.