Today Oxfam launches Even It Up, its big new inequality campaign. For me, the most striking killer fact from the launch report:
‘The number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis, as inequality spirals out of control. In the same period, at least a million mothers have died in childbirth due to a lack of basic health services.’
Although ‘In South Africa, the two richest people have the same wealth as the bottom half of the population’ runs it pretty close.
In case you need some persuading, here are what some very big cheeses have to say:
Graça Machel: This report is a stark and timely portrait of the growing inequality which characterises much of Africa and the world today. Seven out of ten people live in countries where inequality is growing fast, and those at the top of society are leaving the rest behind.
Addressing the gap between the richest people and the poorest and the impact this gap has on other pervasive inequalities between men and women and between races that make life for those at the bottom unbearable is an imperative of our times. Too many children born today have their future held hostage by the low income of their parents, their gender and their race.
The good news is that this growing inequality is not inevitable. It can be resolved. The report contains many examples of success to give us inspiration. I hope that many people from government officials, business and civil society leaders, and bilateral and multilateral institutions will examine this report, reflect on its recommendations and take sustained actions which will tackle the inequality explosion.
Kofi Annan: The widening gap between rich and poor is at a tipping point. It can either take deeper root, jeopardising our efforts to reduce poverty, or we can make concrete changes now to reverse it. This report is a call to action for a common good. We must answer that call.
Joe Stiglitz: The extreme inequalities in incomes and assets we see in much of the world today harm our economies, our societies, and undermine our politics. Whilst we should all worry about this it is of course the poorest who suffer most, experiencing not just vastly unequal outcomes in their lives, but vastly unequal opportunities too. Oxfam’s report is a timely reminder that any real effort to end poverty has to confront the public policy choices that create and sustain inequality.
Andrew Haldane: When Oxfam told us in January 2014 that the world’s 85 richest people have the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity, they touched a moral nerve among the many. Now this comprehensive report goes beyond the statistics to explore the fundamental relationship between inequality and enduring poverty. It also presents some solutions. In highlighting the problem of inequality Oxfam not only speaks to the interests of the poorest people but in our collective interest: there is rising evidence that extreme inequality harms, durably and significantly, the stability of the financial system and growth in the economy. It retards development of the human, social and physical capital necessary for raising living standards and improving well-being. That penny is starting to drop among policymakers and politicians. There is an imperative – moral, economic and social – to develop public policy measures to tackle growing inequality. Oxfam’s report is a valuable stepping stone towards that objective.
Jeffrey Sachs: Oxfam has done it again: a powerful call to action against the rising trend of inequality across the world. And the report comes just in time, as the world’s governments are about to adopt Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Sustainable development means economic prosperity that is inclusive and environmentally sustainable. Yet too much of today’s growth is neither inclusive nor sustainable. The rich get richer while the poor and the planet pay the price. Oxfam spells out how we can and must change course: fairer taxation, ending tax and secrecy havens, equal access of the rich and poor to vital services including health and education; and breaking the vicious spiral of wealth and power by which the rich manipulate our politics to enrich themselves even further. We should all rally to the cause of inclusive, sustainable growth at the core of next year’s SDGs.
Jay Naidoo: All those who care about our common future should read this report. Rising inequality has become the greatest threat to world peace, and indeed to the survival of the human species. The increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of very few has deepened both ecological and economic crises, which in turn has led to an escalation of violence in every corner of our burning planet.
Rosa Pavanelli: The answers Oxfam provides are simple, smart and entirely achievable. All that stands between them and real change is a lack of political will. Our job is to make the cry heard. To give action to the urgency. To ceaselessly expose the injustice and demand its resolution. The time to act is now.
Ha-Joon Chang: Even It Up is the best summary yet of why tackling inequality is crucial to global development. The gulf between haves and have-nots is both wrong in itself, and a source of needless human and economic waste. I urge you to read it, and join the global campaign for a fairer world.
Michael J. Sandel: The growing gap between rich and poor makes poverty more intractable. It also erodes the civic bonds and common life that democracy requires. Oxfam’s inequality campaign will invigorate public debate about one of the great moral challenges of our time.
Sharan Burrow: Today millions of working people are struggling to provide for their families and the hopes of a better future for their children are at stake. Corporate dominance is capturing governments and putting jobs and economies at risk. The counterbalance and the basis of democracy is the power of working people and their families and communities. Even It Up puts workplace democracy at the heart of solutions to tackle inequality. People want governments to intervene to guarantee that companies pay workers a living wage, to close tax loopholes and to implement a social protection floor. Together with Oxfam, we demand that that governments change the rules so the economic system stops favouring the wealthy and is fair to everyone.