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Inequality

6 year-old Hamida Cyimana, is writing on the blackboard used by her father who is a teacher while waiting for him to come home. Kigali, Rwanda. (Credit: Simon Rawles)

Despite the huge progress of the last four decades in reducing poverty, economic inequality is becoming a critical problem within countries, whether rich or poor. Inequality means abundance for the few and injustice for the many; this is a denial of the rights of millions of people. In more unequal societies, rich and poor alike have shorter lives, and live with a greater threat of violence and insecurity as inequality creates conditions in which crime and corruption thrive.

Impact of inequality

From Ghana to Germany, Italy to Indonesia, the gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago, and in 2014 Oxfam calculated that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

In 2014 just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity

An unequal distribution of income and wealth has important implications for eliminating poverty. The majority of the world's poor now live in middle income countries - there are more people with incomes under $1.25 a day living in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Inequality keeps poor people poor and powerless, and weakens the capacity of economic growth to eradicate poverty. Intersecting with age-old forms of systematic exclusion and discrimination based on gender, race, caste, etc. Growing economic inequality exacerbates social problems such as youth unemployment, gender-based violence and many others. It also denies people their dignity and their voice, which deepens social frustration and the likelihood of conflict. At the same time, inequality entrenches wealth and power in the hands of a few, creating societies and structures that are shaped to represent the interests of the elite minority at the expense of the majority of society.

Our approach

Oxfam places people's rights, and especially women's rights, at the heart of all we do. We work to support women and marginalized people to have access to valued roles in the economy and society and put a particular focus on gender justice and empowering poor people to make their voices heard.

In a context of global financial austerity and declining aid flows, it is critical to mobilise additional national and international financial flows for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Fair taxation is at the heart of the social contract between the state and its citizens. It  can provide universal provision of essential services, such as health and education which have the power to transform societies by enabling people to claim their rights, hold their governments to account and improve their life chances.

Even It Up

In Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality Oxfam presents new evidence that the gap between rich and poor is growing ever wider and is undermining poverty eradication.

If India stopped inequality from rising, 90 million more men and women could be lifted out of extreme poverty by 2019.

This report delves into the causes of the inequality crisis and looks at the concrete solutions that can overcome it. Drawing on case studies from around the world the report demonstrates the impact that rising inequality is having on rich and poor countries alike and explores the different ways that people and governments are responding to it.

The world has woken up to the gap between the rich and rest and is already demanding a world that is fairer. This report supports a new campaign to join this growing movement to end extreme inequality and Even It Up.

With our Even It Up campaign, we are joining a groundswell of voices which includes trade unions, women's organisations, social movements, faith leaders, as well as billionaires and leading figures from global institutions, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and millions of ordinary people. Together we are demanding that leaders around the world take action to tackle extreme inequality before it is too late.

Download the Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality report.

Time to Even It Up

Extreme inequality is the result of deliberate policy choices by people in power. Together we must Even it up and stop inequality from undermining our fight against poverty.

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