Inequality has spread through so many areas of life that tilting tax systems in favour of the less well-off won’t be enough to address the gap, a new UN report said.
While a full redistributive package that includes more progressive income taxes and earned income discounts at low-income levels would be a positive step, it wouldn’t be enough, according to the 2019 Human Development Report published Monday. A new generation of inequalities is opening up around issues like education, technology and climate change, prompting concerns of a “great divergence,” the report said.
While income inequality is crucial, so are issues like health, education, and human rights, the report says. It says gaps start even before birth in a “birth lottery” of sorts. Children from poor families may not be able to afford an education and are at a disadvantage when they try to find work.
The report’s authors link recent demonstrations sweeping across the world to the widening development gaps, nothing that the discontent is growing despite unprecedented progress against poverty, hunger and disease.
“Different triggers are bringing people onto the streets — the cost of a train ticket, the price of petrol, demands for political freedoms, the pursuit of fairness and justice. This is the new face of inequality, and as this Human Development Report sets out, inequality is not beyond solutions,” said United Nations Development Program Administrator Achim Steiner.
A new “social norms index” introduced this year says that in half of the countries assessed, gender bias has grown in recent years. Based on current trends, it will take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity alone, according to the report.
“Inequality is not just about how much someone earns compared to their neighbour. It is about the unequal distribution of wealth and power,” Steiner said.
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.