The United Nations describes inequality as the state of not being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. The SDG 10 aims to reduce inequalities, both social and economic inequality within and among countries.
According to the Oxfam Inequality report 2019, in the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled. The wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $900bn in the last year alone, or $2.5 bn a day.
Reasons for rising inequalities are as follows-
- While the richest continue to enjoy booming fortunes, they are also enjoying some of the lowest levels of tax in decades. Only 4 cents in every dollar of tax revenue comes from taxes on wealth.
- The rise in income inequality also manifests itself in the slowdown in wages across industries.
- Data from the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) shows that wages of workers have lagged productivity growth even as managerial compensation has seen an impressive rise.
- Access to education- Despite the improvements in educational mobility in the country, India has one of the highest levels of inequality in access to education, research by a team of World Bank economists.
- Access to a regular job does not necessarily mean access to all social security benefits or similar earnings.
- The majority of this labor force is employed in the informal sector. Those from marginalized groups tend to have much lower salaries than general category workers, even for graduates, data show.
- Failure of labor-intensive manufacturing in India compared to its massive success in China.
- The proportion of GDP contribution of agriculture has come down, but it continues to have large work-force i.e. disguised employment.
- The rise in inequality in India is due to – growing income divergence between states and increasingly unequal income distribution within states.
- Religion – Religious identities too has been found to be significant for an individual’s access to basic services, and his ability to mobilize resources. For instance, the share of Muslims in national income (per-capita), has also indicated a decline over a period of time, both in rural and urban areas.
- Caste Groups – Among various social groupings, SCs continue to remain the most disadvantaged, with a significantly lower per-capita income share.
- Also, the declining trend in the income shares for the ST group, with a corresponding increase in the share of others has been deciphered.
- Corruption – It increases inequality by affecting income distribution, the use of aid flows and decision making in public expenditure.
Consequences of Inequalities-
Inequality makes the fight to end poverty much harder-
Unless growth benefits the poorest people more between now and 2030, the World Bank forecasts that the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – to eliminate extreme poverty – will be missed.
Poor development indicators like IMR, MMR, low per capita income, lower
education and learning outcomes at schools, high rate of population growth can be traced to existing socio-economic inequalities.
High economic inequality is detrimental to public healthcare and education. Upper and Middle classes do not have vested interest in well functioning public healthcare and education as they have means to access private healthcare and education.
Inequality is destabilizing
Inequalities tend to produce social conflict among the social groups e.g. caste groups like Jaats, Maratha, Patels are demanding reservations but this demand is opposed by caste groups already claiming the benefits of reservations, such clash of interest due to perceived inequality tend to produce violent conflicts between opposing caste groups.
Inequalities among ethnic groups have led to various ethnic movements demanding separate states or autonomous regions or even outright secession from India. North East has been rocked by numerous such ethnic movement e.g. by Nagas for greater Nagalim etc.
Inequality undermines our societies
Unequal societies are more stressed, less happy and have poorer mental health which has direct implications on increasing the number of crimes in our societies.
Religious inequality tends to generate a feeling of exclusion among religious minority groups. This reduces their participation in the mainstream, in India, religious minorities have a large population their economic exclusion compromises the GDP growth of the nation as a whole.
Inequality deter Environment
Inequality makes the fight to save our planet from climate breakdown even harder. Oxfam has shown that the average carbon footprint of the richest 1% globally could be as much as 175 times higher than that of the bottom 10%.
Job creation in the modern sectors of the economy rather than redistribution through fiscal spending.
Focus more on economic growth rather than populist policies
Strong labor rights in a country help young people secure a fair wage.
Government spending on infrastructure is important in rural areas
The government’s spending on quality of primary education remains a problem and needs improvement.
Government expenditure on health must be increased.
A social safety net for the informal sector workers like life insurance and pension policies is important.
The promise of equitable and inclusive economic growth has remained elusive, but giving up is not an option. The promotion and adoption of an Inclusive Growth Agenda is the only solution to rising inequality problem. Economic growth which is not inclusive will only exacerbate inequality.