Discussing the substance that the SDG’s pose, which is essential for this time frame of 15 years to change the world, I believe that a critical aspect is extreme inequality, in particular the unequal distribution of wealth, income, opportunities, food, everything. We are well aware that there are enough assets and resources for every human being in the world to develop and live secure and in peace. It is not impossible and it simply depends on the political decisions of the governments and in the execution of the policies of very important private actors.
In fact, the best formula to combat poverty today would be to agressively battle the major epidemic of extreme inequality we are facing. There is some data that is specially scandalous, 62 people own as much wealth as 3600 million, the 1% of the global population owns as much as the remaining 99%. The current economic system puts economy at the service of that 1% and ignores the needs and interests of the mayority of the population, destroys the planet and seriously harms the living conditions of the poorest. It is the poorest people, the ones that live in the areas that are most vulnerable to climate change and suffer its worst consequences, even though it has been proven that the average carbon footprint of the priviledged 1% could be 175 times bigger than that of the poorest 10%.
But let’s focus on the answers, cause it is in those answers where the 8th Goal engages the international community to promote a sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all before 2030.
We can talk about three ways to combat extreme inequality and, therefore, to redistribute opportunities amongst the whole world population and to outline a new economic and social model.
The first one is taxation: to make sure that those who have the most, who are more economically active, contribute more to the common good. In other words, that they pay fairer taxes and do not use mechanisms like tax havens to benefit themselves and turn away from the rest of the world. It sounds easy but, even though we have made progress, we are still far from the goal.
The second one has to do with working conditions and redistribution. There currently is a rampaging “salary-hoarding”: the managers hog an increasing part of the salaries of their companies… The head of the main information technology company of India earns 416 times more than the average worker of that same company and in the big spanish companies, the top level management earn on average 158 times more than their average employee.
And whilst the minimum-wage doesn’t exist or is’nt enough to make a living in too many countries, there is an increasing number of “poor workers”. Women represent the majority of low-wage earners in the world as they carry out the most precarious jobs. It is essential to have a universal mínimum-wage and regulations that limit the salary gaps in each company and sector. The lost of competitiveness in the working conditions is one of the main degradations in the last decades that we must reverse.
The third ingredient is the social investment in education and health. If more people have better jobs and if the ones who earn more and who are more economically active (individuals and companies) pay more taxes, the possibilities of social investment will rise. And that’s were education and health are essential elements: universal, public and free education and health. The health and education that can be reached by anyone, that doesn’t has entry barriers and that, therefore, discriminates positively people on lower incomes and opportunities.
It is necesary to remember that in order to enhace the possibility of finding a job and that this job is fairly remunerated, it is imperative to achieve that the majority of people finish at least their secondary education. To extend education making sure that it is of good quality and that it offers the knowledge and skills necessary in order to live productive and healthy lives. This is a basic condition to achieve a decrease in inequality within the countries.
Three pillars for a new social and economic model in which progress must be made in each and every country in the world.
Jaime Atienza is the Campaign and Policy Director of the NGO Oxfam Intermon.