Inequality

World Social Report 2020 focusing on ‘Inequality in a Rapidly Changing World’

Fifteen years ago, the Report on the World Social Situation 2005 warned that growing inequality could jeopardize the achievement of internationally agreed development goals. The report noted that the world was at a crossroads. If the vision of a shared future was to be carried forward, world leaders had to seize every opportunity to take bold and decisive action to reduce inequality (United Nations, 2005).

Inequality has since moved to the forefront of the policy debate. “Leave no one behind” is the rallying cry of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reducing inequality within and among countries is Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – with good reason. The extraordinary economic growth and widespread improvements in well-being observed over the last several decades have failed to close the deep divides within and across countries.

Powerful economic, social and environmental forces are affecting inequality. The implications of these global forces – or megatrends – are broad and varied. Some can help equalize opportunities, while others are exerting mounting pressure on income inequality, mainly through their effect on labour markets.

The World Social Report 2020 examines the impact of four such megatrends on inequality: technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. Technological change can be an engine of economic growth, offering new possibilities in health care, education, communication and productivity. But it can also exacerbate wage inequality and displace workers. The accelerating impacts of climate change are being felt around the world, but the poorest countries and groups are suffering most, especially those trying to eke out a living in rural areas.

Urbanization offers unmatched opportunities, yet cities find poverty and wealth in close proximity, making high and growing levels of inequality all the more glaring. International migration allows millions of people to seek new opportunities and can help reduce global disparities, but only if it occurs under orderly and safe conditions. While these megatrends and the policies aimed at managing them interact with each other in multiple ways, the focus of this report is exclusively on the direct effect of each megatrend on inequality.

Whether these megatrends are harnessed to encourage a more equitable and sustainable world, or allowed to exacerbate disparities and divisions, will largely determine the shape of our common future.

Stay Tuned for the full World Social Report 2020, which will be launched in January 2020.

 

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