On 17th January, 2022, Oxfam International released the report titled- Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19.
- Inequalities have been deepened in the midst of the pandemic, as a result of violent economic policies contributing to thousands of deaths a day.
- The proportion of people with COVID-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that in rich countries.
- Women, ethnic minorities and developing countries have been the hardest hit by growing inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For 99% of the global population, incomes have fallen and over 160 million more people have been forced into poverty.
- Extreme inequality is a form of economic violence, where policies and political decisions that perpetuate the wealth and power of a privileged few result in direct harm to the vast majority of ordinary people across the world and the planet itself.
- Despite the huge cost of fighting the pandemic, in the past two years rich country governments have failed to increase taxes on the wealth of the richest and continued to privatize public goods such as vaccine science. They have encouraged corporate monopolies to such a degree that in the pandemic period alone, the increase in market concentration threatens to be more in one year than in the past 15 years from 2000 to 2015.
- Inequality goes to the heart of the climate crisis, as the richest 1 percent emit more than twice as much CO2 as the bottom 50 percent of the world.
India Specific Findings
- It reveals that when 84 percent of households in the country suffered a decline in their income in a year marked by tremendous loss of life and livelihoods, the number of Indian billionaires grew from 102 to 142.
- More than 4.6 crore Indians meanwhile are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 (nearly half of the global new poor according to the United Nations.) The stark wealth inequality in India is a result of an economic system rigged in favour of the super-rich over the poor and marginalised.
- Just a one percent wealth tax on 98 richest billionaire families in India can finance Ayushman Bharat, the national public health insurance fund of the Government of India for more than seven years.
Suggestion for the Governments to Reduce Inequality
- Tax the new wealth made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes.
- Invest the trillions that could be raised by these taxes in progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.
- Tackle sexist and racist laws that discriminate against women and racialized people, and create new gender-equal laws to uproot violence and discrimination.
- Define policies that will ensure women, racialized and other oppressed groups are represented in all decision-making spaces.
- End laws that undermine the rights of workers to unionize and strike, and set up stronger legal standards to protect them.
- Waive intellectual property rules over COVID-19 vaccine technologies to allow more countries to produce safe and effective vaccines to usher in the end of the pandemic.
Suggestions for India to Reduce Inequality