The richest 1 per cent got 87 per cent of the increase in wealth last year. The poorest 50 per cent got nothing.
Ottawa (29 Jan. 2017) — Oxfam’s annual report on income inequality, Reward Work, Not Wealth, showed that the wealthiest 1 per cent are continuing to get much, much more than their share of the world’s wealth. The richest 1 per cent got 87 per cent of the increase in wealth last year. The poorest 50 per cent got nothing.
As a result, according to Credit Suisse, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the world’s population now owns over half of the world’s wealth.
Tax cuts and attacks on unions make income inequality worse
One issue highlighted by the report is the disconnect between what politicians and business leaders are saying about income inequality and what they are doing. Many of the politicians and business leaders claiming to be concerned about income inequality also support tax cuts for the wealthy and restricting the rights of unions. As these are 2 major causes of the increase in income inequality, it not hard to see why all the talk about the need to reduce income inequality isn’t producing results.
Income inequality and gender inequality linked
Reward Work, Not Wealth, also looked at how the unequal treatment of women contributes to income inequality. The report points out that “women are vastly over-represented in so many of the poorest paid and least secure jobs.”
One of the examples of how inequality harms women was the working conditions for hotel workers in Canada. A report into working conditions for women working in hotels in Canada, Thailand, and Dominican Republic found a number of similarities. These include workplace injuries and regularly facing sexual harassment and assault. What workers in all 3 countries also had in common is that, without union protection, they feared they would lose their jobs if they complained.
What the report makes clear is that it is not possible to reduce income inequality without ending gender inequality and vice versa.
Recommendations recognize importance of unions, tax fairness and public services
The recommendations the Oxfam report makes to reduce income and gender inequality will be familiar to members of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). Like the proposals we’ve been putting forward to reduce income inequality, the recommendations in the Oxfam report recognize that it is not possible to reduce income inequality without quality public services, which in turn require tax fairness. The recommendations also call for protection of the right of workers to unionize and strike — acknowledging that strong unions are the foundation for all other rights that workers hold.
Another recommendation is to tie shareholder profits and compensation for corporate executives to what workers get paid.
These recommendations reflect the fact that when the wealthiest 1 per cent of the world’s population owns over half of the world’s wealth, it is reasonable to ask the wealthiest 1 per cent to pay their share of the cost of reducing income inequality.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE