Inequality exists in many forms, namely, income, gender, racial, class etc. and threaten our long term development socially and economically. According to the UN, reducing inequalities is essential to ensure no one is left behind. Though there have been positive changes in this regard, they haven’t been enough and “inequality is growing for more than 70% of the global population, exacerbating the risks of divisions and hampering economic and social development”.
Many people, especially women and children do not have access to healthcare and suffer from diseases that are preventable with medicine and vaccinations. This includes diseases such as measles, but also complications that can come from childbirth leading to disabilities. People with disabilities experience discrimination, and many areas are not made accessible for them (e.g. restaurants, etc).
Inequality can also come in the form of lack of opportunities, as migrants, refugees and older people may not have the same opportunities younger people or citizens of a country do such as job opportunity, property ownership, etc.
There is also inequality between countries, as richer countries are not supporting poorer countries with their needs and development. This is especially noticeable today with the COP27 summit happening right now. Many countries who have signed the Paris Agreement and UN pledges are required to plan and act on supporting other countries in their financial needs to fight climate change, but have not done so.
There needs to be transformative change, and measures put in place to tackle these inequalities and their intersecting forms. COVID has increased these inequality gaps substantially and has also triggered a global recession, exacerbating the income gap and inflation, making poor people poorer and rich people richer, among other effects.
Effects of COVID
As discussed inequalities have existed before COVID, but this global pandemic has caused an increase in inequality gaps. A noticeable gap is the increase of wealth for the rich, as billionaires’ wealth grew by over $4 trillion during the pandemic, while over 100 million people fell below the poverty line. Today it is estimated that about 600 million people live in extreme poverty, this has increased due to the pandemic but also due to inflation and the devastating war in Ukraine.
With COVID affecting the labor marketing and job opportunities there has been an increase of job loss, but also working from home. Though we are in the recovery process currently it is estimated that the unemployment rate globally will still continue to be above the pre-pandemic level for at least another year or two. There is also evidence that when young people enter the workforce when there is a recession, as is the case today, they are more likely to earn less than those who entered before or will enter after the recession, and these effects can last for years.
Another inequality evident here is that “lower-skilled and uneducated workers” are hit the hardest. These workers usually have no access to unemployment insurance, have “informal” employment, and no benefits.
Also noticeable in this day and age is healthcare or the lack thereof for some people. Healthcare services available to people can correlate with their employment, housing, education, and access to benefits. Data shows death rates are especially high in Indigenous peoples, at about 108% higher than that for white people. Also increased is violence against women, about 45% of women surveyed by the UN, from low and middle income countries, have experienced or know someone who experienced violence. Whether it was domestic violence, or being denied their basic needs of food or health care, or experiencing sexual harassment.
What not many people have taken into consideration is the effect COVID has had on migrants and refugees who have had to leave their countries due to war, human rights violations, etc. By mid-2020 refugees had increased to over 20 million people, the highest on record. Their situation was made even more difficult due to the closure of many borders as a result of the pandemic. Despite the many challenges faced by migrants and refugees, many continue to be forced to leave their home country in search of a better future.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 to Reduce Inequalities
The United Nations developed SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities and its targets to be achieved by 2030. The overall aim of the goal is to reduce inequality within and among countries. The SDG 10 targets include:
10.1 Reduce Income Inequalities – By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average.
10.2 Promote Universal Social, Economic and Political Inclusion – By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
10.3 Ensure Equal Opportunities and End Discrimination – Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.
10.4 Adopt Fiscal and Social Policies that Promote Equality – Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.
10.5 Improved Regulation of Global Financial Markets and Institutions – Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations.
10.6 Enhanced Representation for Developing Countries in Financial Institutions – Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions.
10.7 Responsible and Well-Managed Migration Policies – Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.
10.8 Special and Differential Treatment for Developing Countries – Implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements.
10.9 Encourage Development Assistance and Investment in Least Developed Countries – Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries in accordance with their national plans and programmes.
10.A Reduce Transaction Costs for Migrant Remittances – By 2030, reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5%.
An Opportunity to Learn More:
EnvironFocus is hosting a webinar event on SDG 10, on Thursday, November 17th, 2022 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EST, titled “Reducing Inequalities Globally: Today’s Growing Feelings of Divide”. We will be joined by guest panelists Yvonne Nchanji, and Karen Navamani. Panel presentations will be followed by a live Q&A session. FREE for a limited time! Register HERE.
Ferreira, F. (2021). Inequality in the time of COVID-19. International Monetary Fund. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2021/06/inequality-and-covid-19-ferreira.htm
Global Goals. (2022). Reduced Inequalities. https://www.globalgoals.org/goals/10-reduced-inequalities/
Sidik, S. (2022, June 22). How COVID has deepened inequality – in six stark graphics. Nature. https://www.nature.com/immersive/d41586-022-01647-6/index.html
Stiglitz, J. (2022, March 1). COVID has made global inequality much worse. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/covid-has-made-global-inequality-much-worse/
United Nations [PDF]. (2020). Reduced Inequalities: Why It Matters. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/10_Why-It-Matters-2020.pdf
United Nations. (2022). Goal 10: Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/inequality/
United Nations Statistics. (2022). Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2021/goal-10/