UNDESA

World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a Rapidly Changing World
The Report examines the impact of four such megatrends on inequality: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. Technological change can be an engine of economic growth, offering new possibilities in health care, education, communication and productivity. But it can also exacerbate wage inequality and displace workers. The accelerating impacts of climate change are being felt around the world, but the poorest countries and groups are suffering most, especially those trying to eke out a living in rural areas. Urbanization offers unmatched opportunities, yet cities find poverty and wealth in close proximity, making high and growing levels of inequality all the more glaring. International migration allows millions of people to seek new opportunities and can help reduce global disparities, but only if it occurs under orderly and safe conditions. While these megatrends and the policies aimed at managing them interact with each other in multiple ways, the focus of this report is exclusively on the direct effect of each megatrend on inequality.


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  1. shinichi Post author

    UNDESA World Social Report 2020

    https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/world-social-report/2020-2.html

    The challenge of inequality in a rapidly changing world

    The World Social Report 2020 examines the impact of four such megatrends on inequality: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. Technological change can be an engine of economic growth, offering new possibilities in health care, education, communication and productivity. But it can also exacerbate wage inequality and displace workers. The accelerating winds of climate change are being unleashed around the world, but the poorest countries and groups are suffering most, especially those trying to eke out a living in rural areas. Urbanization offers unmatched opportunities, yet cities find abject poverty and opulent wealth in close proximity, making gaping and increasing levels of inequality all the more glaring. International migration allows millions of people to seek new opportunities and can help reduce global disparities, but only if it occurs under orderly and safe conditions.

    Whether these mega-trends are harnessed to encourage a more equitable and sustainable world, or allowed to exacerbate disparities and divisions, will largely determine the shape of our common future.

    **

    Chapter 1:
    Inequality: Where We Stand Today

    Chapter 2:
    The Technological Revolution: Winners and Losers

    Chapter 3:
    Climate Change: Exacerbating Poverty and Inequality

    Chapter 4:
    Urbanization: Expanding Opportunities but Deeper Divides

    Chapter 5:
    International Migration: A Force for Equality, under the Right Conditions

    Chapter 6:
    Promoting Equality and Social Justice in a Changing World

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  2. shinichi Post author

    Chapter 1
    Inequality: Where We Stand Today

    Key Messages

    • Inequality within countries is very high but it is not rising everywhere. Since 1990, income inequality has increased in most developed countries. Inequality declined in most Latin American countries from 1990 to the early 2010s but is increasing again in some of them.
    • Inequality trends differ across countries at even similar levels of development.
    • Income inequality among countries has declined in relative terms but is still higher than inequality within most countries. Absolute income differences between countries continue to grow.
    • The world is far from the goal of equal opportunity for all: circumstances beyond an individual’s control, such as gender, race, ethnicity, migrant status and, for children, the socioeconomic status of their parents, continue to affect one’s chances of succeeding in life.
    • Group-based inequalities are declining in some cases but still growing in many others. Unless progress accelerates, leaving no one behind will remain a still distant goal by 2030.
    • High or growing inequality not only harms people living in poverty and other disadvantaged groups. It affects the well-being of society at large.
    • Highly unequal societies grow more slowly than those with low inequality and are less successful at reducing poverty.
    • Without appropriate policies and institutions, inequalities in outcomes create or preserve unequal opportunities and perpetuate social divisions.
    • Rising inequality has created discontent, deepened political divides and can lead to violent conflict.

    For the first time within the context of internationally agreed development goals, the 2030 Agenda includes targets to reduce inequality based on income.

    Income inequality has increased in most developed countries and in some middle-income countries, including China and India, since 1990. Countries where inequality has grown are home to more than two thirds (71 per cent) of the world population. Yet growing inequality is not a universal trend. The Gini coefficient of income inequality has declined in most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and in several African and Asian countries over the last two decades.

    Despite progress in some countries, income and wealth are increasingly concentrated at the top. The share of income going to the richest 1 per cent of the population increased in 59 out of 100 countries with data from 1990 to 2015. Meanwhile, the poorest 40 per cent earned less than 25 per cent of income in all 92 countries with data.

    While economic inequality has grown within many countries, inequality among countries is declining in relative terms. Strong economic growth in China and other emerging economies in Asia has been the main driver of this decline. However, this convergence is not evenly distributed, and the differences among some countries and regions are still considerable. The average income of people living in Northern America is 16 times higher than that of people in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. Meeting the targets and Goals of the 2030 Agenda “for all nations and peoples” requires reducing these stark disparities.

    The 2030 Agenda also calls for ensuring equal opportunity and draws attention to attributes and circumstances that affect access to opportunity, namely age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion and economic or other status. While high and growing income inequality is fuelling polarized political debates around the globe, a consensus has indeed emerged that all should enjoy equal access to opportunity – that one’s chances to succeed in life should not be determined by circumstances beyond an individual’s control.

    Major progress in fulfilling basic needs – through improved child health and increased completion of primary education, for example – has moderated inequalities among some population groups. However, unless progress accelerates, children from those groups that are furthest behind will remain behind by 2030. At the rate of progress observed from the 1990s to the 2010s, it will take more than four decades to close the stunting gap related to ethnicity, for instance.

    Evidence suggests that gaps in more advanced accomplishments persist or are widening. For example, disparities in secondary school attendance by ethnic group, wealth quintile and educational level of the household head have increased since the 1990s in developing countries with data. Gaps in learning outcomes are large and persistent as well.

    Such inequalities have historical roots, but often continue even after the conditions that generated them change. Ethnic minorities, for instance, often remain disadvantaged even in countries where special efforts are made to promote their inclusion. Members of groups that suffered from discrimination in the past start off with fewer assets and lower levels of social and human capital than other groups. While prejudice and discrimination are decried around the globe, they remain pervasive obstacles to equal opportunity – and to the achievement of the SDGs.

    Highly unequal societies are less effective at reducing poverty than those with low levels of inequality. They also grow more slowly and are less successful at sustaining economic growth. Disparities in health and education make it challenging for people to break out of the cycle of poverty, leading to the transmission of disadvantage from one generation to the next.

    Without appropriate policies and institutions in place, inequalities concentrate political influence among those who are already better off, which tends to preserve or even widen opportunity gaps. Growing political influence among the more fortunate erodes trust in the ability of Governments to address the needs of the majority. This lack of trust, in turn, can destabilize political systems and hinder the functioning of democracy. Today, popular discontent is high even in countries that have fully recovered from the 2008 financial and economic crisis and have benefited from steady growth in recent years. Yet rising inequality is not inevitable. Inequality levels and trends differ among countries that are at similar levels of development and equally exposed to trade, technological innovation and even the effects of climate change. National policies and institutions do matter.

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