Rising inequality affecting 70% of the world

“The rise is far from inevitable and can be tackled at a national and international level.”


The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) just published the World Social Report 2020, which shows an increase in income inequality throughout the globe. 

According to Inter Press Service, the report shows that income inequality has increased in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries – including China, which has the world’s fastest-growing economy.

“Income disparities and a lack of opportunities are creating a vicious cycle of inequality, frustration, and discontent across generations. In North and South alike, mass protests have flared up, fueled by a combination of economic woes, growing inequalities, and job insecurity,” says U.N. Chief António Guterres. 

The report examines four megatrends on inequality: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization, and international migration:

  • The world is in the midst of a technological revolution that is responsible for transforming economies and societies with unforeseen consequences especially for “low-skilled and middle-skilled workers in routine manual and cognitive tasks.” Automation is also responsible for reduction of jobs in certain fields. While these changes are certainly disruptive, its effects are not set in stone. “Proactive policies and supportive institutions can help ensure that technological dividends are broadly shared.”
  • Climate change is a big contributor to accelerating poverty and inequality. Gradual environmental degradation and sudden environmental shocks (hurricanes, fires, floods, etc) are both big factors. Rising temperatures affect economic growth, especially in countries located in the tropics, which then results in inequality. People who live in rural areas are drastically affected as well as they are “highly dependent on agricultural, fishing and other ecosystem-related income.”
  • While urbanization is expanding opportunities, it is also creating deeper divides. Where people are born and raised can automatically give you an advantage or disadvantage. “Disparities between rural and urban areas stand out. In most cities and towns, areas characterized by high levels of wealth and modern infrastructure coexist with pockets of severe deprivation, often side by side.”
  • International migration is “a powerful symbol of global inequality, whether in terms of wages, opportunities or lifestyles. International migration generally benefits most migrants and their countries of origin and destination. Yet its costs and benefits are not shared evenly across countries or within countries.”

Their 2005 report warned that growing inequality would become a worldwide problem jeopardizing achievement in global development goals. Since even before 2005, inequality has increased significantly. 

While this is a global issue, increasing inequality is not a universal trend. The report states there is a decline in income inequality in countries located in Latin America, the Caribbean, and many African countries. 


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