The price of inequality is certainly very high. The recent Oxfam Inequality Report 2019 revealed that with the rising imbalance of wealth in the India, and across the world, this inequality comes across as the most sexist.
The international rights group released the crucial report right before the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The report significantly mentions how “women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, including in India”.
“Rising wealth inequality threatens the social fabric of the nation”
The report reveals some shocking details surrounding the level at which wealth is being used, distributed and catered to, unequally in the world. Clearly, while the benefits of rising wealth are enjoyed by the rich, the poor are being pushed towards aggravated hardships.
- The report notes that in the last ten years, since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.
- A new billionaire was created every two days between the period 2017-2018, says the study.
- In 2018, the wealth of the poorest half of human race – 3.8 billion people – fell by 11 per cent.
In India, the wealth of the top 1 per cent increased by 39 per cent, while that of the bottom 50 per cent increased by merely 3 per cent in 2018.
- The poorest 10 per cent of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10 per cent once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.
- The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw an increase in his fortune to $112bn. Just 1 per cent of his fortune is equal to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
“Inequality is sexist”
Coming to the most crucial of all findings — women and their constant struggle in attaining equivalent wealth to that of men. The report makes a special focus on women’s work and discusses how “women remain the poorest of the poor”. Citing a report from UN Women, the report points out how, globally, women earn 23 per cent less than men while men own 50 per cent more of the total wealth than women.
In India, women are still receiving 34 per cent less wages than their male counterparts for the same nature and amount of work.
Unpaid work done by women across the globe amounts to a shocking $10 trillion a year. When it comes to this unrecognised and unpaid care work, it can be noticed that if all the unpaid care work done by women across the globe was carried out by a single company, “it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple”.
If we talk about major findings from the year gone by, we can notice the state of deprivation that women are in today, regardless of their geographic or educational status. The point being that women everywhere are paid much less than what they deserve and this is something which we, collectively, have not been able to tackle, despite countless talks and policies.
According to a recent Global Wealth Report, Indian women are seeing very little of the country’s rising wealth. The study points out how the distribution of wealth in the country is “highly asymmetric, and is decidedly tilted towards men”.
Where does India stand?
- The study finds that the wealth of nine richest Indians is equal to the bottom 50 per cent of the country.
- The country’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and states for public health, sanitation and water supply “is less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani”.
- Under funding and privatisation of public services, this gender inequality is also leading to violence against women, burden of unpaid care work, injustice, and corruption.
Inequality in India is based not just on class, but caste and and gender as well.
- Throwing light on the shortage of health specialists in rural areas, the report compares India’s 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people to the UK’s 2.8. It states that “most insurance schemes (including the new Ayushman Bharat Yojna) fail to cover outpatient costs that account for 68 per cent of expenses”.
- While India boasts of world class health services at low cost, ranking 5th on the Medical Tourism Index, the reality reveals that in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare to its own citizen, it ranks 145th among 195 countries.
Caste-based atrocities are not new in India. It’s, however, now out in the open with an even bigger spot in the face of everything that we stand for. The report, declaring that inequality costs India its human potential, specifically points how “A Dalit woman can expect to live almost 14.6 years less than one from a high-caste”
‘Society restricting women from taking up paid work’
Citing a 1,000-household survey undertaken in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the study mentions that 53 per cent of those surveyed said it was acceptable to harshly criticise a woman if she failed to care well for children. Thirty-three per cent felt it was acceptable to even beat a woman for this reason.
Forty-one per cent of people surveyed admitted it was acceptable to beat a woman if she did not prepare a meal for the men in the family while 68 per cent felt it was acceptable to criticise her harshly.
Fiftty-four per cent felt it was fine to beat a woman if she left the house without asking for a man’s permission, while 86 per cent felt she should be criticised harshly for doing so. These shocking figures reveal everything that is wrong with our society and how we’re still not able to adhere to our promises of putting a stop to the constant prejudice and violence against women.
“It is understood that a woman’s primary role is to take care of the house and her family and any income generating work is secondary to this role. Additionally, girls are pulled out of school first when the money is not available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail,” the report added.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said, “While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care.”
Tax breaks for the richest of the rich
The report claims how top rates of tax on the richest and corporations are the at their lowest in decades. It points out that “unprecedented levels of tax avoidance and evasion” ensure that the wealthiest continue to pay less taxes.
The report shockingly reveals that the “super-rich are hiding $7.6 trillion from the tax authorities”, alleging that corporates “hide” money offshore to evade taxes. “Together, this deprives developing countries of $170bn a year,” it says.
The report significantly recommends revising the NSSO definition of ‘work’ and include ‘domestic work‘ as an economic activity
- The report, making grave recommendations for the government to maintain a fairer society, suggests that “getting the richest one per cent in India to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth could raise enough money to increase government spending on heath by 50 per cent”.
- It suggests that the government meet global benchmarks of 6 per cent and 3.5 per cent of GDP on education and public health respectively.
- Strengthening quality public healthcare, strict enforcement of the Right to Education norms, stopping commercialisation of education and health, and an increased focus on gender budgeting is something the government must consider to move towards a just society.
- A policy framework to recognise ‘care’ as a universal right guaranteed by the state through an effective social protection system is also suggested.
As hundreds of millions of people are still living under severe poverty, constant multiplying benefits lie with people who are at the peak. If this doesn’t raise an alarm, nothing will
“Economic inequality plagued by caste, class, gender and religion need to be tackled on a war-footing. Government must now deliver real change by ensuring that the super-rich and corporations pay their fair share of tax and invest this money to strengthen public healthcare and education. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said.
Oxfam announced that its methodology for assessing the gap between rich and poor was based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse global wealth data book, which covered the period from June 2017 to June 2018. All of the billionaires’ wealth was calculated using the annual Forbes billionaires’ list published in March 2018.