Every era of development has had its own set of issues to deal with. From the stone age when the man was finding mere ways to survive, to the industrial age when colonisation was spreading its deadly tentacles to the late 20th and 21st centuries when the world is a man’s feet and yet, he has not been able to free itself from the bubonic plague of this century – Inequality.
While inequality can be found in almost every sector of life, I would be discussing economic inequality. Now don’t get me wrong when I say economic inequality is the baby born in the late 1900s. It has been present since time immemorial, from the palaces of kings to the dilapidated huts all existing in the same province to the Britishers bathing in wine and gold while fellow Indians had open sewage near their houses, economic inequality has plagued the lives of people since the advent of barter system. However, never has it impacted people globally on such a large scale than now.
With the popularity of globalisation, the pay scales of people have reached extremes on both ends. Reportedly, the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year while billionaire wealth rose almost six times faster. The bottom 50% of the global population bagged less than 1% of total wealth in 2016-2017. While the CEO of a large MNC, sitting in his plush IKEA adorned room, has one foot in Venice and the other in the beaches of Miami, majority of his co-workers are struggling to pay tuition bills of their kids. The inequality is present across professions too, with a highly qualified professor having achieved numerous degrees having to sleep in a minivan while singers, with merely 2-3 years of fame are living in billion dollar mansions.
While people in the USA are drinking gallons of beverages every year, people in India are still fighting for clean water. While there are many other factors affecting the difference in the standard of living of people, it is shocking that the lifestyles are so vastly different that they can’t be even compared. It is convenient to say that the world is being ruled by a handful of insanely rich billionaires. According to CNN Business, the combined fortune of the world’s 26 richest individuals is same as the total wealth of 3.8 billion poorest people of the world.
At the stroke of midnight, when the world woke up to free India in 1947, less than 1% of the population was above the poverty line.
However, after 71 years of Independence, how far have we really come? Does being the fastest growing economy in the world mean anything for the lower middle class? Or the increased amount of GDP is only contributed by some billionaires in our country. India’s top 1% of the population now holds 73% of the wealth while 67 crore citizens, comprising the country’s poorest half, saw their wealth rise by just 1%.
The problem however is not only in the developing countries, but in their developed counterparts as well. In China, Wang Fuman, also known as the Ice Boy, is an 8 year old who became an overnight sensation last year, when his teacher posted a picture of him, with his hair covered in icicles while having to walk for hours to reach his school from his village in Yunnan Province, South China in sub-zero temperature. Fuman was one of the 61 million “left-behind” children, kids who are left in their poor hometowns while their parents seek work in the big cities. Simply because the wages they are paid are not enough to make ends meet. In the video, it can be seen how he lives with his grandmother while his father works in far off city to be able to provide for his family.
China is in fact on the road to become the topmost unequal country in the world and the highly circulated image of Wang with his hair and eyebrows encrusted in ice hit a sore spot for the Chinese regime, whose high-ranking officials are synonymous with embezzlement, bribery, and corruption.
But why are we talking about Inequality so gravely?
Because nobody else is! ‘Economic Development’ is the glossy sheet governments use to cover the poor state of the majority population in their country. What is worse? The gap is widening and the government is enabling that. Because the tertiary sector is paying so well, the manufacturing and agricultural sector is stagnating with a near death to the indigenous sector of these countries.
“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism,” said Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal.
We need to understand that mere growth in GDP doesn’t qualify for a better standard of living for the citizens. If the inequality is not bridged, no amount of growth will be of use, simply because all the money will keep going to the affluent class. This could easily lead to increasing rate of crime because the poor want what the rich have, and since they can’t have it, they try to snatch it, by force. This leads to rising in murder, rapes, corruption and fall of human rights. The population is going crazy after the well-paying jobs, so much so, that it is leading to a disparity in supply versus demand for the seats at these large MNCs thus causing more problems. This is the real issue that the leaders should focus upon because it is this inequality, this inability to meet basic needs of a human which is giving rise to endless troubles in a country. The government needs to boost the labour sector and the manufacturing sector financially with a host of well-paying jobs, while cutting taxes for the poor and rationing the basic commodities. Luxury tax should also be practised and a company should aim more towards an equitable pay throughout work profiles. This is to be done to balance the scales otherwise this plague shall wipe out humanity in the years to come.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.