Chennai: ‘The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population,’ reveals Oxfam’s ‘Time to Care’ report, released today. Oxfam is a confederation of 19 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty.
Their report said, ‘This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system that values the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men, more than the billions of hours of the most essential work – the unpaid and underpaid care work done primarily by women and girls around the world.’
The Oxfam report revealed numerous startling stats. ‘The gap between the super-rich and the rest of society remains unimaginably huge,’ it said. ‘The 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa. The world’s richest one per cent have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. If you saved $10,000 a day since the building of the pyramids in Egypt you would have one-fifth the average fortune of the 5 richest billionaires.’
The report noted, ‘If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.’
One of major reasons for this massive economic wealth shift is the ‘collapse in taxation of the super-rich and the biggest corporations because of falling tax rates and deliberate tax dodging’, the report found. ‘Only four per cent of global tax comes from taxation of wealth and studies show that the super-rich avoid as much as 30 per cent of their tax liability.’
The study noted that the middle-class and poor are made to pay more taxes. ‘Rather than ramping up social programmes and spending to invest in care and tackle inequality, countries are increasing taxation on poor people, reducing public spending and privatizing education and health, often following the advice of financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF),’ the report said.
Gender inequality has also been blamed. ‘Economic inequality is also built on gender inequality, and the majority of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are women,’ says the report. ‘Women and girls are more likely to be found in poorly paid and precarious employment and they do the bulk of unpaid and underpaid care work. The dominant model of capitalism actively exploits and drives traditional sexist beliefs that dis-empower women and girls, counting on them to do this work, but refusing to value them for it.’
Sexism is found to be a vital cause for wealth inequality too. ‘Our economic system was built by rich and powerful men, who continue to make the rules and reap the lion’s share of the benefit,’ the report declared. ‘Worldwide, men own 50 per cent more wealth than women.’ It found shocking gaps in positions held by women at political and economic power. ‘Just 18 per cent of ministers and 24 per cent of parliamentarians globally are women, and they occupy an estimated 34 per cent of managerial positions in the countries where data is available.’
Climate change is disrupting economy across the globe.
‘It is estimated that by 2025, up to 2.4 billion people will be living in areas without enough water, meaning women and girls will be forced to walk further and further to find it,’ the report warned. ‘Climate change will also reduce the amount of food produced and will increase sickness.’
Oxfam has pitched in six recommendations to fight this great wealth divide. First, it urged governments to ‘invest in cross-governmental national care systems (access to safe water, sanitation and domestic energy), in addition to investing in and transforming existing public services and infrastructure’. Second, it said ‘governments must take steps to radically reduce the gap between the rich and the rest of society and prioritize the well being of all citizens over unsustainable growth and profit’. Third, governments must ensure that legal, economic and labour market policies are in place to protect the rights of all carers and paid care workers.
Fourth, governments must facilitate the participation of unpaid carers and care workers in policy-making fora and processes at all levels, and invest resources into collecting comprehensive data that can better inform policy making.
It warned that harmful norms and sexist beliefs that see care work as the responsibility of women and girls will lead to an unequal gendered distribution of care work and perpetuate economic and gender inequality. Finally, it concluded with, ‘Businesses must recognize value of care work and sustain well being of workers.’