Policy and Advocacy

New Report: Ireland has fifth largest number of billionaires per capita in the world, mirroring global inequality trends

  • New report highlights sexist global economy that is hitting women and girls hardest
  • Women’s unpaid care work worth three times the value of global tech sector
  • Oxfam Ireland calls for meaningful engagement with Citizen Assembly to address unpaid care work

Ireland has the fifth largest number of billionaires in the world, relative to its population, Oxfam revealed today on the launch of its annual report on inequality ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The report – entitled Time to Care ­– highlights how global inequality is out of control with the world’s 2,153 billionaires owning more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.

Women do most of the house work
Ruth, a mother of 7, spends all of her time taking care of her children. She would like to run her own small business one day but struggles to find time. Photo: Jed Regala/Oxfam

Ireland’s disproportionately high number of 17 billionaires – the vast majority of whom are men – shows that the country is mirroring this global trend when it comes to wealth inequality. Ireland ranks fifth in the world after Hong Kong, Cyprus, Switzerland and Singapore in terms of relative number of billionaires and has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality in the EU.

Oxfam’s new report sets out how extreme inequality is trapping millions of people in poverty around the world – although estimates of the wealth of the world’s poorest have been revised upwards this year, half the world’s population continue to live on less than €5.00 a day ($5.50) and women in particular get a raw deal as the global economy fails to adequately reward those who carry out care work.

Globally, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. Women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, such as looking after children and the elderly, which amounts to 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. Countless more are paid poverty wages for care work.

Women and children
Care work often takes up a lot of time for women and girls – leaving little to no time for work, study or leisure. Governments must do more to reduce the amount of care work on the shoulders of women and girls. Photo: Jed Regala/Oxfam

In Ireland, women carry out 38 million hours of unpaid care work every week, contributing at least €24 billion to the economy every year – the equivalent of 12.3% of the entire annual Irish economy.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Sexist economies are fuelling the inequality crisis — enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly women and girls. Our upside-down economic system deepens inequality by chronically undervaluing care work – usually done by women and girls.

“They are among those who benefit least from today’s rigged system, carrying the burden of unpaid care work and often left with little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run. And yet, the global economy would not function without them. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving.”

The pressure on carers, both unpaid and paid, is set to increase in the coming decade as the global population grows and ages. An estimated 2.3 billion people will be in need of care by 2030, an increase of 200 million since 2015.

Unequal work
Ruth is the first to wake up, feeding the kids and getting them ready for school, and the last to sleep after she cleans the house and washes everyone’s clothes. Photo: Jed Regala/Oxfam

The report also looks at governments’ role in fueling the inequality crisis, massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload. Investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare and public healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life.

Oxfam is urging governments to create fairer fiscal systems and crack down on tax loopholes to raise the revenue needed to invest in national care systems and public services that meet everyone’s needs, without relying on unpaid and underpaid work by women.

Getting the richest one per cent to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years could raise enough money to create 117 million jobs, including 79 million in education, health and social care which would help close the current care gap.

Clarken continued: “Ireland is set to address the crucial issue of care, carers and those who receive care in the upcoming Citizen’s Assembly on gender inequality – an important moment to meaningfully engage – and resource – solutions to the disproportionate impact unpaid care work has on Irish women.

“We’re calling for changes to social and employment policies that support carers, enabling them to combine caring with employment and encouraging more men to participate in care work. For example, more paid shared parental leave or a reformed pension system that means women don’t miss out if they have to leave the work force to care for a loved one. We need high-quality care services, resourced by care workers that are paid a living wage.

“We’re also calling for all Government departments to produce an equality budgeting impact statement on a statutory basis. Ireland needs to comprehensively adopt gender budgeting approaches that systematically involve women’s organisations and civil society, to provide proper scrutiny of the impact of economic and taxation polices, as well as spending priorities, on women and girls.”

Time to Care: Let's #FightInequality

Contact Information

ROI:     Alice Dawson-Lyons on 00 353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

NI:        Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Oxfam report: The power of education to fight inequality

school in santa cruz nicaragua
School in Santa Cruz, Nicaragua. Photo: William Vest-Lillesø

Inequality is reaching new extremes. Significant increases in inequality of both income and wealth are leading to larger gaps between rich and poor, men and women.

This is creating serious obstacles to overcoming poverty and exclusion, and stopping us from beating poverty. With women substantially over-represented in the ranks of the poorest, this is also reinforcing gender inequality, blocking progress on women’s rights. These inequalities threaten to pull our societies apart, and unravel the social contract between state and citizen, by undermining social cohesion and eroding democratic institutions.

But inequality is not inevitable. It is a political choice. It is the result of deliberate policy choices made by governments and international organizations. Conversely, it is now broadly agreed by most global policy makers that extreme inequality is also avoidable, and that concrete steps can be taken to reduce inequality.

Good-quality education can be liberating for individuals, and it can act as a leveller and equalizer within society. This report will show the unparalleled power of education to level the playing field, to help close the growing divides, and bring us closer together.

Find the report and the summary at Oxfam.org

West Africa: Extreme inequality in numbers

Disheveled boy carries plates
Northern Ghana has poverty levels two to three times higher than the national average. The region is covered by dry savannah land and lacks key infrastructure such as roads and markets. Credit: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

West Africa has had an impressive economic growth in the past two decades. In 2018, the region was home to six of the top 10 fastest growing economies in Africa: Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger.

However, for the majority of countries, the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth went to a tiny few. Today, inequality has reached extreme levels in the region. The rich have grown richer while the poor have become even poorer. The region has also the least public health care coverage and the least populations with access to water and decent education.

Let’s look at the numbers

1% Compared to other regions on the continent, West Africa has the greatest number of countries with more than 30 percent of the population living on less than $1.90 (€1.72/£1.48) a day. The top one percent West Africans own more than everyone else combined in the region.

$1.25 Five of Nigeria’s richest men have a combined wealth of US$29.9 billion (€27.1 billion/£23.2 billion) – more than the country’s entire national budget for 2017. However, about 60 percent of its citizens live on less than US$1.25 (€1.13/£0.97) a day, the threshold for absolute poverty.

1 M In Ghana, West Africa’s second biggest economy, one of the richest men earns more in a month than one of the poorest women could earn in 1,000 years. In the decade ending in 2016, the country added 1,000 US dollar millionaires while nearly one million more people were added to the poverty pool.

Girl smiles in mothers arms
West Africa has high rates of child marriage. Niger, Mali and Nigeria are home to the highest number of children married before 18 years in Africa. Credit: Laeïla Adjovi/Oxfam

$9.6 BN West Africa countries lose an estimated $9.6 billion (€8.7 billion/£7.5 billion) each year through corporate tax incentives offered to multinational companies. This would be enough to build about 100 modern and well-equipped hospitals each year in the region.

70% Inequality is also rife in the provision of public services such as education. Women from rich families in Mali are 15 times more likely to have received a secondary education than women from poor families. An estimated 70 percent of the poorest girls in Niger have never attended primary school.

3.5% In Nigeria, women constitute between 60 percent and 79 percent of the rural labour force but they are 10 times less likely to own their own land than men. They represent only 3.5 percent of the population owning farmland in the country. This level of inequality has negative impacts on women, including making them more vulnerable to gender-based violence.

How committed are West African governments to reducing inequality?

While a small but growing group becomes fantastically rich, a clear majority of West Africa’s citizens are denied the most essential elements of a dignified life like access to quality education, healthcare and decent jobs. Yet the West African governments are much less committed to reducing inequality than all other regions of the African continent.

The Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) regional report, which ranks countries according to their commitment to tackle inequality, reveals that the West African’s governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, while under-taxing corporations and the wealthy.

Without radically increasing their commitment to reduce inequality, this crisis is likely to worsen. It’s time for West African governments to act decisively. Unless they significantly close the gap between the richest and the rest, ending extreme poverty will remain a dream.

Oxfam calls for international community urgent action to prevent humanitarian crisis in North-East Syria

Oxfam Ireland launches emergency appeal for North-East Syria

Oxfam is calling for urgent action from the international community to do all in their power to ensure that the humanitarian situation in north-east Syria does not worsen further.

Oxfam Ireland has also now launched an emergency appeal for public donations, following on from the aid agency’s announcement that it is providing new funding for the unfolding and ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Amid news reports of an increasingly chaotic situation and escalating humanitarian concerns following the US withdrawal from north-eastern Syria, and Turkey’s offensive, Oxfam is primarily concerned for the safety, security and rights of the civilians caught in the middle.

Oxfam is calling on all sides to protect civilians, adhere to international humanitarian law and to allow full access to aid.

Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne, recently returned from Syria, said: “As concerns continue to raise for the humanitarian consequences of on-going hostilities, we re-iterate the need for the international community to respond.

“For too long, the conflict in Syria has risked becoming a forgotten crisis and the world can no longer stand idly by. Urgent action is needed to prevent potentially dire consequences for families and children who find themselves once again caught up in deadly violence. All children must be protected and provided humanitarian assistance.

“With an ongoing major crisis in Idlib and huge needs across the country, the aid response in Syria is already stretched to breaking point.

“This latest violence is compounding the suffering of civilians in Syria – nine years after the crisis began. Before this latest escalation in conflict 12 million people needed humanitarian aid and 300,000 have already lost their lives.

“The security situation in the area is already fragile, with tens of thousands of fighters and their families being held in camps and detention centres.

“An estimated 450,000 people live within 3 miles of the Syria-Turkey border and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritize the protection of civilians. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are at least 1,650,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in north-east Syria. The population includes more than 90,000 internally displaced people, who have already been forced to flee their homes at least once in Syria’s unrelenting war.

“Oxfam is on the ground, already helping over one million people in Syria with aid including clean water, cash and essential clothing items. Those now forced to flee are facing a winter of dreadful conditions with little means to survive it – they urgently need food, water, clothing, warm blankets, stoves and fuel. As winter approaches and the conflict escalates we urgently need to continue our live-saving work to reach even more women, children and men in desperate need.”

People wishing to support Oxfam’s emergency appeal for Syria can donate online via www.oxfamireland.org/syria-appeal, or through Oxfam Ireland’s network of 47 retail shops across the island. To find the Oxfam shop nearest to you, visit www.oxfamireland.org/shops .

ENDS

Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne, recently returned from Syria, is available for interview. For more information please contact:

Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • In 2018/19, Oxfam in Syria helped over 1.2 million people with aid including clean water, cash, essential clothing items, and support to help make a living and grow nutritious food. In Lebanon and Jordan, Oxfam has to date helped some 300,000 people affected by the Syria crisis.

Omar* (27 years old), Fatima* and their 2-year-old son. Photo Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

New Shocking Facts About the Impact of Fast Fashion on our Climate

 

Our planet is in serious trouble and our nation’s addiction to new clothes is doing more harm than you may think.

Half a tonne of clothing every minute is dumped into a landfill in Ireland. That amount produces over 12 tonnes of carbon emissions – the same as driving 65,000 kilometres in a car.

Buying just one white cotton shirt produces the same amount of emissions as driving 56 kilometres in a car. 

Earlier this year, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg stood up in front of world leaders at Davos to deliver a chilling wake up call. “We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people.”

 
 
Greta sparked a wake-up call across the globe demanding drastic change to save our planet and in turn, ourselves. We’re all feeling the effects of the climate emergency, but it is not affecting us all equally.
 
The world’s poorest people have contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet are suffering the full force of its impacts – increased flooding, droughts and storms destroying lives, homes, jobs, livestock and crops.
 
When Greta said, “our house is on fire” she wasn’t wrong. We are seeing unprecedented wild fires spreading across the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet, producing 20% of the world’s oxygen.
Greenland’s ice sheet is melting so fast it has caused global sea levels to rise 0.5mm in just one month. Our planet is in serious trouble.
 
But things could be different. As Greta pointed out “The main solution is so simple that even a small child can understand. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
 
Obvious actions stand out – flying less, driving less, taking more public transport. But how about buying fewer new clothes? With the global textile industry producing more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined – it could be a more important change than we think.
 
Help raise awareness of how damaging our shopping habits can be by sharing the graphic below on your social channels.
 
 
 
 
 

Pages