Inequality has a powerful and corrosive effect on economic and social development; it negatively influences growth, poverty reduction, social stability and sustainable development.
Despite reduction in poverty levels and other social achievements made since 1990, and especially during the decade and half under the Millennium Development Goals, worldwide inequalities continue to exist or have increased considerably. In many parts of the world, large disparities remain in incomes, between genders, among social groups and in various dimensions of human development, including in access to quality education and healthcare.
Inequality matters not only to those living at the bottom of the income percentile but also for the overall well-being of societies and nations. To reduce inequality, we need to devise policies that are universal in principle paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations. We need to ensure inclusive economic growth that involves the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.
Recognizing the overarching influence of inequality in hampering human development and inhibiting economic and social growth, the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made reducing inequality as Goal-10 of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These goals, adopted at the UN Sustainable Summit this September, are a universal set of recommendations that UN member states will use to help frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.
However, there is nothing inevitable about growing income inequality; several countries have managed to contain or reduce income inequality while achieving strong growth performance. This proves that when it comes to inequalities, the policies pursued by governments matters and can make a significant difference. Acknowledging this, Goal-10 urges governments to adopt sound policies that empower women and others facing inequalities, and to promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.
A major target of Goal-10 is progressively achieving and sustaining income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average by 2030. And, in the same timeframe, empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
With the growing realization that income inequality cannot be tackled unless solutions are found to the underlying unequal access to opportunities, Goal-10 calls for ensuring equal opportunity and reducing inequalities of outcome. It endorses eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation and action in this regard, as well as adopting policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieving greater equality.
To bridge the widening inequality divide, Goal-10 also calls for improving regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest. It urges implementing the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries with regard to trade in line with World Trade Organization agreements.
The goal also calls for ensuring enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions. This would also go a long way in making these institutions more credible, effective, accountable and legitimate
The rationale that opportunities in life depend largely on an individual’s country of residence is reinforced by the fact that in inequalities across countries are larger than national inequalities.
Addressing international inequalities requires broadening the scope of the global partnership for development. The importance of facilitating migration cannot be denied in this respect.
Goal-10 targets facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people through planned and well-managed migration policies. A related target to facilitating migration is reducing by 2030 the transaction cost of remittances to less than three percent and eliminating remittance corridors with costs higher than five percent.
Failure to pursue a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive approach to development has led to inequality in almost everywhere sphere of life, in communities, in nations and between nations. Ending inequality is not only a moral imperative, but also crucial for unleashing the human and productive potential of individuals everywhere in the world.
Income inequality in the developing world is on the rise; it increased by 11 percent between 1990 and 2010, even when we factor in the growth in population.
Nearly three-quarter of the population in the developing world are living in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s.
In 2010, high-income countries, which accounted for only 16 percent of the world’s population, were estimated to generate 55 percent of global income. Low-income countries created just above one percent of global income even though they contained 72 percent of global population.
An average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $2,014 in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 stood out against the GDP per capita of $41,399 in North America.
The richest 10 percent of the global population earn up to 40 percent of total income while the poorest 10 percent earn on average only 5 percent of total global income.
Women in rural areas are up to three times more likely to die while giving birth than women living in urban centers.
Persons with disabilities are up to five times more likely than average to incur catastrophic health expenditures
Children in the poorest 20 percent of the populations are up to three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children in the richest quintiles