3 shocking stats on inequality!

July 28th, 2014
  1. The worlds ‘85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world’
  2.  The ‘Wal-Mart family (US based retailers) own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans’
  3.  ‘The richest 1% of the UK population are now wealthier than the poorest 50% put together’
Chris Evans car

Chris Evans car

And how do the rich spend their money – well UK radio and TV personality Chris Evans bought in 2010 a $19 million car.

But why does any of this matter? Practical Actions concerned with the poorest – why not just ignore the rich and let them get on with their consumption?While of course happiness or wellbeing can’t be measured by money alone this degree of inequity is damaging, for example

Research has shown that more inequitable societies have a greater degree of social problems – murder rates, infant mortality, obesity, and life expectancy – women and men who come from a more equitable society have better lives.

Too much wealth can give people too much control over the lives of others. Think Rupert Murdoch! (Australian-American news magnate friends with Tony Blair, he strongly supported the Iraq war. His newspapers claimed they could influence the outcome of UK elections. More recently his newspaper empire has been mired in phone hacking and bribery scandals).

Inequality is destabilizing – economists say some incentives are needed but when inequality gets to the levels illustrated above it can leave those at the bottom feeling angry, marginalized and disenfranchised.

Sustainability – the consumption levels enjoyed by the rich and sought by many – more and more things – are incompatible with the finite nature of our planet. In our pursuit of trinkets (I’m not a car lover!) we risk devastating environmental degradation. Climate change is happening now.

And then there’s gender – writing this I started looking for stats on the financial control women have across the world. Turns out they are pretty hard to find – the figures normally quoted by the UN ie “women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property.” are estimates. The just released Human Development Report 2014 (HDR) identifies being a woman as a marker of vulnerability – not surprising but still shocking! Yet investing in women and girls is one of the best ways to deliver sustainable development. Society is unequal and even more inequitable for women.

And justice…….


Practical Action is an organisation driven by our values – the way we see the world is that for all of us, poor and rich, life could be transformed for the better through a refocus on well being, equity, Techology Justice and sustainbility.

I overheard a critique of someone – not me – recently. The critical person said ‘passionate about the problems but not so articulate about the solutions’. I am passionate about the solutions! We at Practical Action have so many we are already delivering and more that together with others we have still to discover. But I’ll leave you to read some of my and others past blogs to discover those.

$19 million car – imagine the cost of a service!




(source for the statistics – Oxfam,  Politifact, New Economics Foundation)



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