Monday, 30th October 2017

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Truth about global inequality

These trends are socially and politically disruptive

  • Published 27.01.20, 1:46 AM
  • Updated 27.01.20, 1:46 AM
  • 2 mins read
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63 Indian billionaires put together have more wealth than the total annual budget for 2018-19 for the Indian economy presented by the government. Shutterstock

The latest Oxfam report, Time to Care, which was published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting, has estimated that the top one per cent of people in India hold more than four times the wealth held by the bottom 70 per cent of the population or about 950 million people. All the 63 Indian billionaires put together have more wealth than the total annual budget for 2018-19 for the Indian economy presented by the government. This finding is consistent with the shocking global trends of rising economic inequality. According to the report, the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 per cent of the world’s population. While hardly anybody would disagree with the fact that some amount of inequality is inevitable in any society or that a modicum of it may actually serve as a stimulus for raising aspirations and hence economic growth, the current levels are completely unacceptable.

The implications of this massive degree of inequality are many, and almost all of them are socially, politically, and economically disruptive. Deep inequalities, more often than not, engender social unrest. People tend to be more intolerant and corrupt in a social ambience that is perceived as unfair by the majority. Typically, the few who are rich and powerful insist on — and fund — a decisive government that cracks down on dissent, tries to divide and rule in an attempt to maintain social stability, and might even try to amend Constitutions to make power more centralized. Inequality becomes an enemy of an open, plural, and democratic society. These trends are being observed in many countries of the world, even though the tolerance limits of people and the tipping points of social instability vary from nation to nation. Another implication of deep economic inequality is that it is biased against women. Among the poor and dispossessed are a disproportionate number of women and young girls. The report suggests that in India it would take a female domestic worker 22,277 years to earn what the CEO of a top technology company earns in one year. It is estimated that women and young girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid work each day. Their contribution to the Indian economy amounts to 20 times the entire education budget of the nation. Finally, on the economic front, if this trend of rising inequality continues, then in just two or three decades the only way to become rich would be to be born rich. The great appeal of market capitalism that allowed equal opportunities for people to work and grow might disappear forever.