Tackling Inequality

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Tackling Inequality

“Our aim is clear. Our mission is possible. And our destination is in our sights: an end to extreme

poverty by 2030; a life of peace and dignity for all," (Ban Ki-moon, 2015)

The senior UN official stated in 2016 that the Sustainable Development Goals must be owned by everyone, yet do we know enough about these goals in order for them to be a success? but more importantly do we understand the importance of achieving these goals? In order for the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved the goals need everyone to understand, accept, and strive for their success. That’s you, me, everyone, not just governments and large multinational corporations granted they too are vital for the success of the goals but in order for these goals to work no part of the world’s population can be excluded. There is no denying this agenda is ambitious but is it realistic? Are our world leaders signing up to an agenda that’s not possible? In order for this mission to be possible we need to understand these goals because without the knowledge and the understanding, the SDG mission is impossible.

The new Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 universal goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The 17 SDG’s are something we all strive for in society. The SDG’s build on the Millennium Development Goals which have achieved some success however, a lot of countries made little or no significant progress. Are the SDG’s set for the same fate as the MDG’s with little or no progress in some countries? However, where there is public buy in and electoral support then countries have shown their ability to achieve the MDG’s. To ensure that multinationals, NGO’s and governments are working for the success of the SDG’s we require a united public and government focus on achieving equality and the SDG’s. Let’s focus on Goal 10 of the Sustainable Developments Goals. This goal aims to reduce inequalities within and among countries, in particular this blog post will look at the aim to reduce income inequality.

Reducing inequalities is something all countries should strive for but is it really possible? One of the targets of goal 10 that by 2030 to progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom forty percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average. Whether or not the goals are achievable has been saturated in debate since the publication of the SDG’s. This blog will focus on goal 10 in particular and will pose many questions but mainly it will discuss whether or not that goal 10 of the SDG’s is achievable or not and whether we know enough about the goal to in fact achieve it.

As Amartya Sen states in his book Poverty and Famine: An essay on Entitlement and Deprivation that famine is not merely the lack of food but the lack of access. Income inequality takes that same theory it is not the lack of money but the lack of access. According to the OECD income inequality is the dispersion of income across a population (OECD, 2011). It is no secret that income is becoming more and more unequally distributed and the gap between the rich and poor growing every day which Piketty outlines in his book Capital in the Twenty First Century. Income inequality in developing countries is worse than it was in 1990’s. Even though we think we are aware of this growing inequality, we do not realise the extent of this inequality. The top richest ten percent are now earning up to forty percent of the total global income and the poorest ten percent only earn between two and seven percent of the total global income (Sustainable Development Goals Fund,2017). Inequality isn’t inevitable and there is proof of improvement. According to the UN from 2007 to 2012 the average income of the poorest families in more than 50 countries grew faster than the national averages reducing income inequality in those countries Therefore, it is possible to reduce inequality and strive for equality however, there must be governments and policies which also have the same aim to achieve equality. Income inequality isn’t the same everywhere therefore we must ask ourselves why are some nations achieving equality and why are others so divided? Income inequality between countries has been reduced.

However, inequality within countries has risen. In order to combat income inequality within countries governments must play their role promote inclusive social and economic growth. Policies must be adopted to target the bottom groups of income distribution, as Piketty states if nothing is done to change existing policies further inequality will occur. (Piketty, 2014) Industrial development can also induce economic growth that is sustainable and inclusive. (Patrick Paul Walsh, 2015) However, in order for this to work industrial policy and competition policy must be complemented by other government policies as it can also create massive inequalities and gaps between classes. Sustainable development and economic growth can work together however, it needs governments to introduce policies that ensures sustainable economic growth. However, these policies must be beneficial to both countries and must not have a negative impact on either country. As when countries inflict their own economic policies onto other countries it can have a negative affect. This is due to the fact that each country will have its own agenda and many relationships between countries are maintained through trade deals, power structures and self interest it is therefore important that one country does not over exploit the other.

We must not forget that inequality is not limited to income and in order for us to achieve income equality we must strive for equality in all areas. In order to achieve income equality, we must also achieve for example gender equality the pay gap between male and female must be closed. Laws that discriminate against certain groups and minorities must be eliminated therefore we can reduce inequalities in income. One of the indicators used to measure the target of goal 10 is growth rates of household expenditure or income per capita among the bottom 40 percent of the population and the total population. (UN, 2016). This indicator is a sufficient way of measuring whether or not the bottom 40% has an income growth at a rate higher than the national average. Unlike other indicators proposed for the SDG’s the indicator itself is not problematic. If we look at the indicator, the proportion of the population living on less than a dollar a day suggested for the target to eradicate poverty of goal 1 we see it as problematic. In order for this indicator to work the dollar must be normalised as the dollar does not have the same value in all countries therefore it is not an accurate indicator of poverty. It is the problematic indicators which make the SDG’s unrealistic because if the indicators are problematic therefore the data by which they measure the targets are incorrect. Therefore, in order for the SDG’s to be a success we need everyone to have the knowledge and understanding of the SDG’s and comprehensive indicators which can measure the targets of each goal accurately. Each country must act within accordance of the SDG’s and ensure the policies they implement do not have a negative impact on other countries. The Global North must be conscious of the policies they implement and ensure trade with the Global South is in in accordance with the SDG’s and ensure they do not adversely affect the sustainable development in the Global South.

About Author:

Name: Eilis Regan
Award: Bronze Award

Sending organisation: UCDVO