The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened global economic disparities. Not only has the pandemic killed millions of people throughout the world, but it has also revealed the flaws in public health systems as well as social and economic safeguards. In summary, the coronavirus pandemic has shown that people’s life chances are intimately tied to their money and healthcare, their social power, their ethnic and caste identities, and their geographic locations.
What is the report “Inequality Kills”?
Oxfam, a U.K.-based consortium of 21 nonprofit organisations with a worldwide presence, issued “Inequality Kills: The Unprecedented Action Needed to Combat Unprecedented Inequality in the Wake of COVID-19” in January 2022. The authors are Nabil Ahmad, Nafkote Dabi, Max Lawson, Megan Lowthers, Anna Marriott, and Leah Mugehera. The report calls for rapid and sustained action to end the pandemic, reduce global inequity, and take coordinated action to solve the climate disaster. The report’s fundamental premise is that inequality is a death sentence for those who are excluded from political decision-making through social and economic processes. A startling statistic is mentioned in the report: 160 million individuals became poor as a result of the pandemic, but the top 10 wealthiest individuals saw their incomes double since the pandemic.
The study, which holds governments accountable, blames “vaccine apartheid” (unequal access to vaccinations across countries) and the absence of comprehensive immunisation programmes in many countries for the creation of many new coronavirus strains that have contributed to the pandemic’s persistence. It also reveals how $16 trillion in emergency government spending, intended to keep economies afloat throughout the crisis, increased stock values. During the pandemic, this led to a $5 trillion increase in the wealth of billionaires. This vertical consolidation of global wealth into the hands of a few is “profoundly harmful to our world,” according to the report, which calls it “the billionaire variant.”
What exactly does the study mean when it says that inequality kills?
Inequality is not an abstract theory in the author’s report. Instead, they regard it as a kind of institutionalised violence perpetrated on the poor. Extreme inequality is a type of “economic violence,” the report states emphatically, “where structural and systemic policy and political decisions biassed in favour of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals result in indirect damage to the great majority of ordinary people throughout the globe.” According to the analysis, higher inequality is linked to increased crime and violence, as well as a lack of social trust. Women all over the world bear the brunt of injustice and violence, including Dalits in India, Black, Native American, and Latinx people in the United States, and indigenous peoples in many countries. The report uses the example of women to show how lockdowns have resulted in an upsurge in violence against women throughout the world. The situation, according to the research, is even more serious as 13 million women have not returned to work and 20 million girls are in danger of losing access to school. This indicates that the aim of gender equality has taken a significant step backward, one that will take at least 135 years to reverse. To summarise, owing to rising economic disparity, women who were already unequal before the pandemic are now far more unequal.
According to the research, inequality between nations is at the root of the climate catastrophe. Extreme neoliberal economic development models have resulted in a lopsided system of carbon-intensive manufacturing that benefits the wealthy while pushing the risk onto the poor. According to the research, the “wealthiest 1% of mankind is responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50% of humanity.” Finally, the report demonstrates how growing inequality causes poverty, which leads to hunger and hunger-related fatalities. During the pandemic, 369 million children are said to have lost access to school meals. This was the most nutritious meal of the day for millions of these children.
What steps does the report suggest taking to address global inequality?
To combat inequality, the “Inequality Kills” report proposes far-reaching reforms to political, economic, and policy-making processes. It urgently requests that “vaccine formulas” be made open-source so that they may be manufactured by any authorised vaccine maker. In doing so, the report calls for the abolition of pharmaceutical firms’ vaccination monopolies, which are protected by the World Trade Organization. The paper then calls on governments to “claw” billionaires’ income back by imposing higher-than-90 percent solidarity taxes, particularly on those who gained during and after the pandemic. In addition, the study calls for the permanent abolition of tax havens, progressive corporate taxes, and an end to corporate tax avoidance. The paper then recommends that all of this newly acquired money be used to create economic safety nets, universalize healthcare for everybody, invest in and democratise green technology, and safeguard women from abuse. Finally, through strengthening workers’ unions, increasing political representation of marginalised groups, and demanding human rights, the study calls for dispersing power and income.