Equality, Inequality, and Equity: Where do these fit in the poverty agenda?

Publication date

14 Jun 2008

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There is growing recognition amongst development policy makers that extreme inequality is bad for healthy economic growth and social stability, as well as being inter-generational in its effects. This paper reviews the state of global inequalities, and analyses the forces that drive them. Shifts towards manufacturing and service-based economies are biased in favour of educated labour, and away from the poorest countries and workers. Simultaneously, global agricultural trade liberalisation is undermining small-scale farmers in the poorest countries. These processes exacerbate inequalities both between and within countries. The author argues that methods to combat inequality skirt around the underlying politics that give rise to such injustices, and tend to focus on technocratic approaches and minor adjustments rather than more radical political solutions. At national level these would include land redistribution, access to basic services, tax reform, and reforms to political participation. At international level, action to reduce inequality must include pro-poor trade reform.