Deepening Global Income Inequality Leaves Women Stuck Paying the Tab

shutterstock_343772474According to a new report from Oxfam International, just 62 individuals now own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population (roughly 3.5 billion people) with one group paying the highest price for global income inequality: women.

Released ahead of World Economic Forum‘s (WEF) 46th annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which runs Jan. 20 to 23, “An Economy for the 1%” reveals the astonishing rate at which the economic divide between the world’s wealthiest and poorest individuals has broadened, detailing the fattening of the world’s richest wallets to $1.76 trillion, an amount that has nearly doubled since 2010. Meanwhile, the world’s poorest were pinched by a trillion-dollar decrease in wealth during the same period.

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But it’s women, comprising 70 percent of the world’s poor, who are shorted the most. Higher income inequality often equals diminished access to quality healthcare and education, leading to wider gaps between women and men in labor market participation and parliamentary representation. Today, women around the world must still negotiate the gender pay gap, a disparity that impacts a woman’s ability to accrue savings over time, destabilizing their economic futures.

Did I mention women also amount to more than 70 percent of low-wage workers? That is, of course, if women are paid at all. Studies show women take on more than half of unpaid work, spending more than twice as much time as men doing housework and caring for children. What’s more, women represent 66 percent of unpaid caregivers. Burdened with the task of caring for sick and elderly family members, with employers offering little to no paid leave, women forfeit their careers and the long-term income and benefits that come with them.

As part of its report, Oxfam has created a formula to solve this economic equation. In addition to advocating for women’s economic equality by calling for the closing of the gender pay gap globally and providing compensation for unpaid work, the report also asks world leaders to address stagnant wages, facilitate the fair sharing of taxes, and eliminate off-shore tax havens where it is estimated the world’s richest hide some $7.6 trillion.

“Power and privilege are being used to rig the system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest of us to levels we have not seen before,” said Oxfam America president Raymond C. Offenheiser in a statement. “While such extreme inequality is bad for all of us, it’s the poorest among us who suffer the grimmest consequences.”

Photo via Shutterstock. Graphic courtesy of Oxfam.



Kitty Lindsay is a Ms. blogger and works at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She is also creator and host of Feminist Crush, a weekly podcast featuring conversations with feminist artists and activists. Follow her on Twitter!