Global Inequality Continues to Grow: UNDESA Report

Tribal women converge at the Boipariguda weekly market in
Koraput District, in India’s Odisha state, to sell and buy farm
produce. Indigenous communities remain at the centre of those
affected by climate change, he said, disproportionately bearing the
brunt of the crisis and facing higher risks. Credit: Manipadma

By Samira Sadeque

More than 70 percent of the global population is currently
living in parts of the world where income inequality has grown,
according to a
World Social Report 2020
launched by United Nations
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

The report, which was launched at the U.N. on Tuesday,
identified four “megatrends” that impacts this inequality: 
technological innovation, climate change, urbanisation and
international migration.

“The report underscores that these mega trends can be
harnessed for a more equitable and sustainable world or they can be
left alone to divide us further,” Elliott Harris, U.N. Chief
Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development
at DESA, said at the launch. 

He added that the current climate crisis especially causes the
slowdown in reducing inequality between countries and further
“presents major obstacle to reduce poverty”.

Indigenous communities remain at the centre of those affected by
climate change, he said, disproportionately bearing the brunt of
the crisis and facing higher risks. 

“And it’s affecting intergenerational inequality as well,”
he said. 

Technological innovation, digital division

With regards to technology, Harris said technological
innovations are “pushing wage inequality upwards”. 

“Despite its immense promise, technological change creates
winners and losers and its rapid pace brings additional new
challenges,” he said. 

But the “digital
” exists through access to technology and technological
devices (or lack thereof). According to the report, almost 90
percent of the population of most developed countries have access
to the Internet, while only 19 percent of the population in least
developed countries have the same access. 

According to the U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP)
data from 2018, the
list of least developed countries
includes many countries in
Africa — a continent being lauded for its
massive technological growth

a PwC report on Africa states
, “disruptive innovation is
transforming Africa’s economic potential, creating new target
markets and unprecedented consumer choice”. It then begs the
question how technological divide is perpetuating inequality in
these countries. 

When asked, Harris acknowledged this growth but added those
countries that are lagging behind have a lot of “catching up”
to do.

“The fact remains that because of the rapid advancement of
technological innovation, the time that its taking to establish a
digital infrastructure is time at which the advanced countries
continue to move ahead at increasingly rapid pace,” he told

“The cycles of tech innovation are getting shorter and
shorter,” he said, adding a hypothetical analysis that by the
time a developing country has set up 5G, a developed country is
already establishing 8G.

“And we need to make a really concerted effort to catch up
really quickly,” he said, “we need a big jump; we can’t go
progressively at the speed at which we did it in the past.” 

A vicious cycle?

Another notable observation made in the report was how those who
are poor and remain without access to education or healthcare
remain at the core of the struggle.

“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,”
read a part of the report.

This is especially concerning at a time when the world has a
massive refugee population that only continues to grow, whether due
to climate change or conflict. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
states the current refugee crisis is “unprecedented” with a
total of 70.8 million
people forcibly displaced.  

For communities that remain in transit, it poses a challenge to
establish access to health and education, which can thus hinder the
process of breaking out the poverty cycle, thus perpetuating the
gap between the poor and the rich. 

When asked, Harris said this vicious cycle is “a very serious
concern that we have.” 

“The problem, of course, is [in] many cases the refugees are
concentrated in places that do not have large amount of additional
resources they can devote to support refugees and so they are very
dependent on the support of the international community,” he told

“It’s been relatively less difficult to mobilise support at
the onset of the crisis when people have to flee,” he said,
adding that maintaining that support when in some cases they’re
in refugee camps or displaced from their homelands for years at a
time” is what becomes challenging. 

He lauded the efforts by host countries for doing their best in
hosting the refugees, and added that the international community
has a responsibility to “step up and help these host

Marta Roig, Chief of Emerging Trends and Issues in the
Development Section, Division for Inclusive Social Development,
DESA, was also present at the launch.

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Global Inequality Continues to Grow: UNDESA Report
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Global Inequality Continues to Grow: UNDESA Report