About Oxfam’s work on Inequalities
Why does inequality matter to Oxfam?
Extreme inequality is hurting us all: damaging economic growth, fuelling crime, and squandering the hopes and ambitions of billions who are trapped at the bottom with no way out. Such stark inequality is not inevitable – it is the consequence of political choices made by public institutions all over the world. It doesn’t have to be this way – together we can even things up.
Inequality is economically inefficient: it tends to lower growth and can reduce the rate at which growth is converted into the reduction of poverty.
Inequality is socially inefficient: more unequal societies - compared to more equal societies at similar income levels - tend to do worse on all sorts of measures of wellbeing, from life expectancy to higher crime rates.
Inequality is socially divisive: the link between inequality and violent crime is well established: rates of violence are higher in more unequal societies. This is a visible reality in many of the countries where Oxfam works.
Inequality is politically corrosive: the concentration of power in the hands of a few undermines the social and political institutions essential to a prosperous society. As stronger economic and political elites resist progressive policies and calls for redistribution, this acts as a barrier to reform and can have serious consequences for society.
Inequality is often intrinsically unfair and morally wrong: Oxfam believes that the current levels of extreme inequality in the world are morally unacceptable and that the gap between rich and poor must be reduced as a matter of urgency.
How does the MIF relate to Even it Up campaign and existing work?
Oxfam’s Even It Up campaign aims to draw attention to the starkly growing trends of wealth concentration and calls for action to close the gap between the rich and the rest. Making global wealth and income inequality trends more visible is a critical first step given this issue has previously been ignored or accepted as a ‘normal’ outcome of the current economic model. The campaign has six key asks, including that all governments: act now to reduce inequality levels and close the gap between the richest and the rest; ensure tax systems are fair and free of loopholes; invest in vital public services like universal healthcare and education; make sure everyone has access to dignified work; ensure economic policies work to close the gap between women and men; work for their citizens first, with the interests of the richest no longer put ahead of the rest.
Oxfam advocates for a human economy that would create better, more equal societies.
The MIF and the Oxfam toolkit provide guidance and a consistent approach for an in-depth analysis of all these issues. It will help generate data to make multidimensional inequalities visible and no longer accepted as “natural”. It will also provide the foundation to enable further exploration of the policies that work for inequality reduction and help you bring together the different actors who can work together to bring about change.
How does the MIF relate to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII)?
The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index is a new database of indicators, launched in 2017 and covering 157 countries in its 2018 version. It measures the commitment of governments to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Its indicators measure government action in three areas critical for reducing the gaps: social spending, tax and labour rights. These three critical areas relate to some of the domains and indicators suggested in the MIF.
The CRII gathers evidences of policies that have worked, or failed, to reduce inequalities in different contexts. The knowledge generated by CRII is a critical way to complement the MIF, in the sense that it will help users identify what policies could be effective to tackle the most relevant expressions and causes of inequalities in your own context. It can also help you evaluate your country’s progress in applying inequality-reducing policies compared to other countries.
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How does the MIF relate to the Fiscal Accountability for Inequality Reduction Programme (FAIR-EIU!)?
For Oxfam, fiscal justice is about all people having the space, voice and agency to exercise their rights and influence the fiscal system – whatever their gender, class, religion or ability. We enable individuals, groups and communities to influence and monitor fiscal systems, with the aim of mobilizing greater revenue and increasing pro-poor spending on public services.
Fiscal justice is critical in addressing extreme inequality and poverty. More than technical tax or budget systems, it is about power, politics and supporting the fight against inequality with all available public resources. Our vision puts active citizens and civil society organizations at the heart of our approach – paying particular attention to commonly overlooked groups, and the barriers to their voices, issues and participation. Oxfam has extensive experience in 40 countries of delivering programmes and campaigns that advance people’s rights through work on tax, budget and social accountability.
The FAIR framework is closely linked to the Even it Up Campaign (EIU).
The MIF and the Oxfam toolkit will draw on learning generated by the FAIR-Even It Up! Programme to help teams strengthen their country and regional programmes for inequality reduction.
How does the MIF relate to Oxfam’s work on political capture?
In terms of inequality, it is possible to have “too much” as well as “too little” of something. Too much influence by some individuals and groups can have a negative effect on other people’s capabilities.
There are growing concerns that extreme wealth inequality has led to political capture by elites, which, in turn, may be an underlying driver of inequalities across many areas of life. Oxfam has developed a specific methodology to help you unpack how political capture happens (The capture phenomenon: unmasking power, English, Spanish). Political Capture is a process where powerful actors intentionally use their influence to make government work in their interest, often at the expense of the public. Some dimensions identified and involved may be electoral capture, financial capture, corporate capture, concentration and abuse of power (along with weak institutions), or corruption.
The MIF and the Oxfam toolkit will help you explore some aspects of political capture in depth. Either under the analysis of inequalities and power relations in Domain 6, regarding participation, influence and voice, or when analyzing the structural drivers of inequalities, the framework places significant emphasis on the differences in the concentration of power and wealth.