Inequality must be addressed through social protection policies

Inequality has become a defining issue of the present time that must be addressed through social protection policies, including progressive taxation in favour of low-income families as well as public spending to support vulnerable populations, delegates told the opening of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57) on 11 February 2019.

“With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, combating inequality and social protection has moved to the centre of the policy agenda in all countries,” said Cheikh Niang (Senegal), the Commission Chair, following his election to the role.

He said that a growing body of evidence shows that income inequality has been on the rise in many countries while unequal social opportunities continue to persist, whether its access to decent work, quality education and health care or to productive assets such as land and credit, calling on delegates to not only highlight the impact of inequality on people and communities but also to point to fiscal, wage and social protection policies that have shown to be effective in addressing inequality and challenges to social inclusion.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed outlined some measures to rectify inequality, namely through public financing, wage growth and social protection policies, arguing that Governments should raise revenues rather than cutting social expenditures.

Valentin Rybakov (Belarus), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that inequality is becoming the “defining issue of our time”, with health and education disparities remaining high.  In some countries, children in the lowest 20 per cent of the income distribution are nearly three times more likely to be underweight and twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday.  “These figures show that we are currently moving in the wrong direction,” he stressed, adding that “a world in which extreme wealth coexists with extreme poverty is a world of strife”.

Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani (Qatar), Vice-President of the General Assembly, said that the extension of pensions has been shown to be the most notable advance in expanding social protection in recent decades.  Almost 68 per cent of older persons received a pension in 2016.  However, only 28 per cent of persons with severe disabilities, 35 per cent of children and 22 per cent of unemployed workers received benefits.

Also addressing the opening segment was a representative from a non-governmental organization, who said the Commission is meeting when many Governments are implementing austerity measures or turning to the private sector to fill the gaps.  But it is at this time that States must step up, protecting people and promoting more social inclusion by distributing resources more justly, he emphasized.

Echoing the previous speaker, a youth representative called for a tax regime that is people-centred and planet-sensitive, and proposed the creation of a global, universal body tasked with taxing wealth and resource extraction.

During the ensuing general debate, Mohammad Shtayyeh, Minister of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction of the State of Palestine, delivered a statement on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and expressed deep concern that more than 20 years after the World Summit for Social Development, progress has been slow and uneven and major gaps remain.  In this regard, he went on to highlight the fundamental role of international cooperation, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation and renewed partnerships to support national efforts.

Romania’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, pointed out that high inequality hampers growth and undermines social cohesion.  “Income inequality in the European Union would have been much higher without the redistributive effects of taxes and transfers.”  Significant public expenditure on health care, education, employment, social cohesion, pensions and long-term care are also key parts of the European model, he noted.

In the afternoon, the Commission held a high-level panel discussion titled “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.”

Also speaking during the general debate were representatives of Viet Nam (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Trinidad and Tobago (for the Caribbean Community), Benin (for the African Group), Ghana (for the Economic Community of West African States), Chile (for the Group of Older Persons), Peru, and Austria.  Ghana’s delegate also delivered a national statement.

Read more about the opening of the CSocD57.

Source: UN DPI


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