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NGO Report: Global Inequality at Highest in 20 Years

Save the Children finds growing inequality within "middle-income" countries

Common Dreams staff

Save the Children released a new report on international inequality (Photo by Raghu Rai/Magnum for Save the Children)

According to a new report (pdf) from international organization Save the Children, income inequality is at a 20-year high worldwide. While this in itself is not a surprising trend, their findings suggest a global shift in poverty, from a developed versus developing issue to a domestic one.

The report acknowledges reductions in poverty and mortality, though the successes are cautioned. "In recent decades the world has made dramatic progress in cutting child deaths and improving opportunities for children; we are now reaching a tipping point where preventable child deaths could be eradicated in our lifetime," said the organization's chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

However, the Save the Children points out that, when inequality is factored in, "we can see that some individuals and some groups are lagging a long way behind." The report found that “children born into the richest households have access to 35 times the resources [including healthcare, food and schooling] of the poorest.”

The report also found that although inequalities remain high between "so-called" developed nations and those historically impoverished, there is a growing trend of inequality within individual countries. According to their reserach, "in 1990, the vast majority—93 percent—of people in poverty in the world lived in low-income countries. Today, despite the fact that inequalities between countries remain high, more than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people—up to a billion—live in middle-income countries".

Though absolute poverty may be in decline, the millions of people that struggle with relative poverty—incomes insufficient to essential food and healthcare where they live—highlight the growing income disparity worldwide. The report continues:

At the same time the top deciles of their populations are enjoying rapid wealth accumulation, with the resultant effect that there are vast gulfs emerging between rich and poor.

Save the Children argues that without directly addressing these gaps in "middle-income countries" by determining how a population can "share the benefits of growth more effectively," future efforts at eradicating extreme poverty will not succeed: “A focus on alleviating absolute poverty must be augmented by a common commitment to tackle inequalities in opportunities and outcomes.”

Save the Children published this report in advance of a high-level UN panel on poverty.

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