The study, launched today, calls on all countries to adopt policies to combat inequality, including: a wealth tax; recognition and reduction of women’s unpaid care burdens; increasing corporate democracy; a maximum wage linked to the wage of the lowest paid worker in a company; and limiting private finance for political parties and political campaigns.
Titled ‘The Price of Privilege: Extreme wealth, unaccountable power and the fight for equality in the 21st century’, the report examines the myths that have institutionalised unfairness for decades.
These include the belief that inequality is necessary to generate economic growth; a conviction that ‘job creators’ must be coddled with tax breaks and other favours; and unjustified confidence that the private sector is more ‘efficient’ than the public sector. The study demonstrates how those arguments were constructed, and why they are now falling apart.
“As we anticipate the Federal Budget on 3 May,” says Archie Law, Executive Director of ActionAid Australia, “the richest 20% of the Australian population have five times more income and 70 times more wealth than the least wealthy 20%. Meanwhile, the 200 richest people in the world control more wealth than the whole of Africa. That’s just not right.
“Our ‘Price of Privilege’ study argues that trade liberalisation, fiscal liberalisation, privatisation, budget austerity, deregulation and undermining trade unions are leading not just to greater inequality but also to lower rates of growth. Even institutions like the IMF are telling us that.”
“The good news,” explains Archie Law, “is that we know a lot about what policies combat inequality. The real problem is politics, not policy. To solve these issues in Australia, inequality must not only be tackled in the Federal Budget, but has to become a key debate in the forthcoming election.
“We can no longer accept the offshoring of wealth we learned about in the Panama Papers. Rather than pandering to the elite, next week’s Federal Budget must address inequality, responding to the needs of women and the vulnerable through revitalizing public services and the transfer system. We should focus on the creation of more and better jobs for women and men, and on ensuring that corporations and the rich pay their fair share of taxes both here and abroad.
“It’s also time to restore Australia’s reputation as a generous international aid partner,” concludes Archie Law, “and unite with the world to demand change. Many of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities are already part of this struggle, and if Australians and others work in solidarity with them, we can help end the rule of the one percent and create a more equal planet.”