By Ahmad Saed Alzein, Author of The Holy Book of Luck
There is too much inequality in the world resulting in misfortune and poverty for many. The information and statistics are enough to keep many of us awake at night:
• All the world’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion other people – 60 percent of the planet’s population. Global inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast and the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade. The gap between rich and poor cannot be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these.
• Our sexist economies are fuelling the inequality crisis —enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly poor women and girls. The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa. Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
• Getting the one percent of the richest to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education, and health.
Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist. Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy.
Women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload. Across the globe, 42 percent of women of working age cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six percent of men. Women also make up two-thirds of the paid ‘care workforce’. Jobs such as nursery workers, domestic workers, and care assistants are often poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll.
The pressure on caretakers, both unpaid and paid, is set to grow in the coming decade as the global population grows and age. An estimated 2.3 billion people will be in need of care by 2030 —an increase of 200 million since 2015. Climate change could worsen the looming global care crisis —by 2025, up to 2.4 billion people will live in areas without enough water, and women and girls will have to walk even longer distances to fetch it.
Governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle poverty and inequality. At the same time, governments are underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload. For example, investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life. For example, providing access to an improved water source could save women in parts of Zimbabwe up to four hours of work a day, or two months a year.
Governments created the inequality crisis —they must act now to end it. They must ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure. They must pass laws to tackle the huge amount of care work done by women and girls and ensure that people who do some of the most important jobs in our society —caring for our parents, our children and the most vulnerable— are paid a living wage. Governments must prioritize care as being as important as all other sectors in order to build more human economies that work for everyone, not just a fortunate few.