By Oxfam India:
Every year since 2007, Blog Action Day has inspired conversations around relevant global themes. On 16th October each year, tens of thousands of bloggers from around the world use the power of their bogs to share, discuss and inspire positive action.
The underlying factor common to these issues of concern is that of inequality thereby making ‘inequality’ the theme for this year’s Blog Action Day.
The widening gap between the rich and everyone else is the defining issue of our time, and is preventing us from tackling poverty and injustice. The top 1% of families holds 46% of the world’s wealth, while seven out of ten people live in a country where economic inequality has increased over the past 30 years. Such stark inequality is not only a moral outrage; it is tearing societies apart, damaging economies and pushing more people into poverty. It is estimated that over 15 crore people could be lifted out of poverty by 2025 if the richest 10% give up just 0.25% of their income.
The enormous public and political response to Oxfam’s report released earlier this year (Working for the Few) — including the stark statistic that the 85 richest people have as much wealth as the poorest 350 crore people – demonstrated firsthand that inequality has captured the public and political mood. Building from Oxfam India’s work, we know that extreme inequality is not natural or inevitable. It is the consequence of political choices. The political process and the rules of the economic system have been rigged by the few, denying hundreds of millions of people the opportunity to benefit from their hard work and make a better life for themselves.
Inequities in access to quality essential services perpetuate further inequality. Recent estimates reveal that failing to reduce inequality can cost the world additional $300 billion (i.e. Rs.1857 crore) to end poverty in 2030. Hence, reducing inequality is significant part of fighting poverty and securing a sustainable future for all. In a world of finite resources, we cannot end poverty unless we reduce inequality rapidly.
Looking at India, we seem to have consistently failed to achieve intended health and education outcomes, including the MDGs. Progress towards better health has been slower than in other Asian countries including China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand. A quarter of all child deaths and 20% of all maternal deaths in the world occur in India. Increasingly, the country is faced with a ‘double burden’: chronic diseases now account for more than half of all deaths in India, even as communicable diseases remain a major cause of mortality (29%). People residing in rural areas, and those who belong to marginalised castes, religious minorities, women and the poor lack access to good quality care because of social, geographic and economic barriers.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 guaranteed free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years. While the law was a major step ahead, progress falls far short of this minimal promise: 2 out of 5 children in India drop out before class 8 and barely 1 child in 10 reaches graduation. Only 34% of girls complete primary education compared to 54% boys. Over 1.7 crore children are still out of school. 25% of Muslim children are not enrolled at all. The new law also sets up quality norms. Today, barely 8% of schools comply with its provisions; an additional 12 lakh teachers are needed to address overcrowded classrooms; nearly one 1 out of 2 schools has no toilet.
In the next year, Oxfam will be launching an exciting new 5-year global and national campaign to build a global movement against inequality and close the growing gap between the rich and the rest. The campaign will influence the public and policy-makers that extreme inequality is unacceptable and needs to be challenged, and push for game-changing policies to tackle inequality.
With an eye to get the conversation going, Oxfam will also be launching theÂ new global campaign report on October 31, 2014, which will be rooted in our programme work that sets out the multiple ways that governments can tackle inequality, from addressing the gender wage gap and calling for a living wage, to investing in public services and changing the tax rules that allow big business to avoid paying their fair share. The global report will be launched by over 7 Oxfam affiliates, with at least 12 countries launching the global report at the end of October.