The Oxfam Inequality Report 2019, released on January 21 details shocking levels of wealth inequality in the country, adding that wealth is being further concentrated in the hands of the richest while the poor are pushed deeper into deprivation.
The Oxfam Inequality Report 2019, released by the international rights group before the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, said the wealth of top nine billionaires in India is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 pc of the population while 60 pc or the majority of the population own merely 4.8 pc of the national wealth.The trend is however, not just reported in India, but also all around the world, with the only difference of being further fuelled by gender disparity in India.
As the report had its special focus on women’s work, it discussed how they remain the poorest of all. The report consisted of a whole separate report which was named as ‘Inequality is sexist’.
Women, the biggest victim of income inequality
As we go down the social ladder, women are the hardest hit by the income inequality in the nation. The report said that in their workplaces, women still receive 34 pc less wages than their male peers for the same amount of work. Also, when the government of a nation reduces its expenditure on healthcare, education and employment facilities, women are the first ones to lose out on these services.
“There are a lot of workplaces that instantly doubt the capabilities of a woman as compared to a male employee. Although the scenarios have significantly reduced in the formal sector, but are still present,” says Pallavi Goel, an engineering graduate while talking to Media India Group.
As various social problems in India subject women to domesticity, they are also made to stay in homes and look after the young and elderly, without contributing anything to the economy. Women in India spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work while men devote a mere half an hour on average.
“This disproportionate burden of unpaid care work by women means they lose out on opportunities to participate in paid labour or are forced to undertake paid labour leading to their time poverty and loss in well-being,” the report said.
This inequality is clearly reflected in the list of top billionaires of India, where there’s only one women who stands in the list of top twenty richest Indians in the world.
The missing middle
While India is a proud nation for its fastest growing economy in the world, its poor are still fighting to get the basic standard of living for themselves. It is still home to the largest number of the poor and illiterates in the world and several parts of the country are even below sub-Saharan Africa in the Human Development Indicators (HDI).
Several reports last year showed how 18 people in Jharkhand died starving, while the fortunes of the billionaires in India are continuously swelling.
This has been correctly stated by the Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit, who said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines. “If this obscene inequality between the top 1 pc and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” she added.
Under-funding health care & education means the poor are hit hardest, with women and girls paying the highest price.
— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) January 23, 2019
There’s a need to tax the upper income section of the country and increase the government expenditure on the lower section, to ensure equality to some extent. And as far as the gender disparity is concerned, the government would need to take massive measures to promote equality and opportunities for the women of the nation.