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Inequality in High-Income Countries Increasing, Says World Bank

NEW YORK, Oct 9 2014 (IPS) - Inequality in high-income countries is at highest levels since World War Two, says a new World Bank report.

Increased youth unemployment, a growing concentration of income among top-income earners and slowed growth following the global financial crisis are all contributing factors to increased relative poverty in developed countries according to the report released Thursday.

Although absolute poverty among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reduced, relative poverty has increased over the same period, the report noted.

The average OECD Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, increased from 0.29 in the mid-1990s to 0.32 in 2010, including increases in inequality in some of the world’s highest income countries such as the United States and Japan.

The report added that, “Perhaps most strikingly, income inequality is increasing even in traditionally egalitarian high-income stalwarts like Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.”

Youth unemployment remains a concern, with an increase from 12 percent in 2000 to 16.3 percent in 2012 across the 34 OECD countries.

“Unemployment has reached close to 49 million people in the OECD area as a whole, or about 7.9 percent of the labor force. In addition, nearly 8 million youth in OECD countries are neither employed nor enrolled in education or training”, the report said.

The report also noted that an increased casualisation of the work force was an issue for up to one-third of employees in OECD countries.

According to the report, “Not only are youth, the low-skilled, immigrants, and other disadvantaged groups currently facing relatively higher unemployment rates, but many of them who are employed are subjected to nonstandard work arrangements, such as involuntary part-time or temporary jobs and self-employment. These jobs now account for about one-third of total employment across OECD countries”.

The trend towards inequality within high-income countries is part of a global trend towards inequality.

In January 2014 Bill Gates wrote that there would be no more poor countries by 2035, the same week Oxfam released a report that found that the world’s 85 richest people were as wealthy as the poorest half of the world’s population.

The Oxfam report, also found that just one percent of the world’s population now own almost half of the world’s wealth and that “seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.”

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