Equality is good news for the world

Countries with higher income equality function better, says Danny Dorling

Here’s some good news. Globally, one of the worst things that ever happens to people – having to cope with the death of a young child – has never been rarer than it is today. The rate at which infant mortality has improved has been greatest in those countries where the wealth gap between rich and poor is narrower. However, it remains high in the United States, which is very unequal in terms of wealth.

Here’s another piece of good news. In affluent countries that have more income equality (remembering that affluent countries tend to be the least green), people tend to consume less per person than in more unequal countries, despite often having money that they could spend. The amount of waste produced per person is also on average a little higher in those places where resources are least well shared out.

There are two countries in the world where everything works very well but where the richest 1% of the population have never had a lower share of national income. These are the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Globalisation should not mean that inequality has to rise in a country. It’s a choice we, as citizens, make to either oppose it effectively enough, or give in to selfishness. The best off 1% of people in Switzerland live on less than half as much income as the best off 1% in the UK. They still manage to run banks.

In a country like the UK or US, where incomes are now incredibly unevenly distributed, there is actually enough money to employ every young person, full-time, who is out of work under the age of 25, on the living wage at least ten times over. The money is to be found in the extra incomes that the very richest 10% of the populations in countries like these have secured for themselves over the course of the last four decades.

“The best off 1% of people in Switzerland live on less than half as much income as the best off 1% in the UK. They still manage to run banks”

It is not that we don’t have enough money in the economy to employ everyone. We pay ourselves more than enough to employ everyone. It’s that we have allowed a few people to take more and more of the cake and have become suckers for their stories of how allowing this supposedly creates jobs, while there is mass unemployment and more millionaires than ever.

The rich could be still the richest but everyone else could be so much better off if the richest just shared a little more. In some countries, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands, they have. In other countries such as the UK and US, we still need to encourage them further.

In affluent countries there are enough teachers to teach all children well, enough homes for everyone to be housed, enough food for everyone to be well fed, and enough health care to go round, if only well organised. More equitable affluent countries do better in all kinds of ways. They also take a smaller share overall of global resources, and that is good news if we want to see infant and young child mortality rates continue to fall and living standards continue to rise worldwide.


Win a copy of The No Nonsense Guide to Equality by Danny Dorling

To win 1 of 5 free copies of Danny Dorling’s new book, The No Nonsense Guide to Equality, please email your contact details to [email protected] with ‘Equality competition’ in the subject line. Closing date: 31 July 2012. Winners will be selected at random. Standard terms and conditions apply.