Reduced inequalities possible with individual action & comprehensive government policies

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own” – Cesar ChavezGoal - 10

The world as a whole is becoming richer. According to the Pew Research Centre analysis of data from the World Bank database (2015), the share of the population defined as poor has actually fallen by nearly half since 2001, dropping to around 15%, and income inequality between countries is in fact diminishing. However, whilst income inequality between countries is declining, inequality within countries is on the rise. UNDP report, 2013, ‘Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries’ notes that on average, income inequality increased by 11% in developing countries between 1990 and 2010.

It seems that the global economic growth failed to take everyone with it, leaving behind marginalised people and communities, from women and girls, and people with disabilities to indigenous groups worldwide (UNFPA). Inequality is a global problem that requires a global solution, and that is exactly why it was included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and occupying number 10 of the 17 goals.

In the spirit of the Millennium Declaration of 2000, SDG10 endeavours to continue reducing poverty, yet with a positively more comprehensive insight than its predecessor, recognising that it is simply not enough to offer equal opportunities; we must also strive to equip each and every person with equality of outcome, as the UNDP report  ‘Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries’ (2013) highlights. In layman’s terms, an individual needs Goal 6 (water), Goal 8 (power), Goal 3 (healthcare), Goal 2 (food), and Goal 3 (education), simply to be able to take advantage of equal opportunities, and eventually reduce inequalities as a whole.

SDG10 hopes to tackle the structural factors that cause these inequalities: discrimination, lack of representation, and lack of appropriate policies by aiming to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices and encouraging governments to adopt policies of fiscal, wage and social protection. And with the same UNDP report concluding that policy makers from around the world acknowledged that inequality in their countries is potentially a threat to long-term social and economic development, it is no surprise that efficient policies are on the agenda. Achieving this would hopefully allow for both equality of opportunity, and equality of outcome, allowing the most disadvantaged to prosper.

The success of these targets is more essential than ever for Nigeria. Despite the prediction that by 2030 it will be amongst the world’s top 20 economies, the country is facing an increasing wealth divide fuelled by corruption and extortionate governance costs (and one of the largest in the world at that), Income redistribution is such that the majority of the population are not reaping the benefits of the country’s rich supply of natural resources, however, there is hope that the SDG10 target of increasing the income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population (globally) at a rate higher than the national average will help Nigeria to narrow this gap between the rich and the poor.

But why should we care? If we push aside the human-level responsibility to care about the wellbeing of our neighbours, inequality is closely related to “poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence and conflict”, according to the World Economic Forum’s report ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015’. So for a better country, a better world, and a better Nigeria, these shocking disparities should be the wake up call that pushes forward the implementation of SDG10.

Besides reducing the wealth divide, SDG10 endeavours to give a voice to developing countries like Nigeria, making them heard in global international economic and financial institutions, and endeavours to give these countries greater development, assistance, and investment in order to fuel equality.

The message is loud and clear – inequality matters, and it affects each and every one of us, if not directly, indirectly. And we must not be put off by the magnitude of Goal 10. It aims for the arguably unthinkable – to tackle inequality, be it “income, consumption, wealth, gender, employment, (or) health variables” (Asian Economic & Financial Review, 2015, p443). It aims to provide for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, in the challenging, judgemental and discriminative world we live in. And it wants equality of income in a world rife with greed. It wants what Goal 1, Goal 7, and Goal 9 promote combined. But with so many demands and so many challenges comes great opportunity.  It may seem far out of reach, but reduced inequalities within and among countries is certainly possible with individual action, comprehensive government policies, and higher wages to kick-start the journey.

Written by Rebecca Church (Intern)