The Facts and Figures of Poverty and Inequality

IFG Bulletin, 2001, Volume 1, Issue 3, International Forum on Globalization



* The new rules of globalization-and the players writing them-focus on integrating global markets, neglecting the needs of people that markets cannot meet. The process is concentrating power and marginalizing the poor, both countries and people.... The current debate [about globalization] is...too narrow, limited to the concerns of economic growth and financial stability and neglecting broader human concerns such as persistent global poverty, growing inequality between and within countries, exclusion of poor people and countries and persistent human rights abuses. - United Nations Human Development Report, 1999

* Excluding China, there are 100 million more poor people in developing countries than a decade ago. - The World Bank, Annual Review of Development Effectiveness, 1999

* Since 1980, economic decline or stagnation has affected 100 countries, reducing the incomes of 1.6 billion people. For 70 of these countries, average incomes are less in the mid 1990s than in 1980, and in 43, less than in 1970. - United Nations Human Development Report, 1 999


* The income gap between the fifth of the worlds' people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest doubled from 1960 to 1990, from 30 to I to 60 to 1. By 1998, it had jumped again, with the gap widening to an astonishing 78 to 1. - United Nations Human Development Report, I 999

* Global inequality is worsening rapidly.... Technological change and financial liberalization result in a disproportionately fast increase in the number of households at the extreme rich end, without shrinking the distribution at the poor end.... From 1988 to 1993, the share of the world income going to the poorest 10 percent of the world's population fell by over a quarter, whereas the share of the richest 10 percent rose by 8 percent. The richest 10 percent pulled away from the median, while the poorest 10 percent fell away from the median, falling absolutely and by a large amount. - Robert Wade, The London School of Economics, The Economist, 2001


* [Since 1983], there has been almost no trickle down of economic growth to the average [U.S.] family Almost all the growth in household income and wealth has accrued to the richest 20 percent. - Edward Wolff, Jerome Levy Economics Institute, Bard College, 2000

* Between 1947 and 1973, the median earnings of

American workers more than doubled - and the bottom 20 percent enjoyed the biggest gains. But since 1973, median earnings have fallen by about 15 percent, and the bottom 20 percent have fallen the furthest behind. More than 40 percent of all earnings gains have gone to the richest I percent. - United States Census Bureau,

Supplemental Income Inequality, 2001

* In 1999, the average compensation package of a top U.S. Chief Executive, including bonuses and stock options, was 475 times that of the average blue-collar worker.-Jennifer Reingold, Business Week, 2000


* Of the largest 100 economies in the world, 52 are now corporations; only 48 are countries. Mitsubishi is the 22nd largest economy in the world. General Motors is 26th. Ford is 31st. All are larger than Denmark, Thailand, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Malaysia, and Chile. The combined sales of the largest 200 corporations are 18 times the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people living in severe poverty. - Institute for Policy Studies, Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power, 2000

* In the United States, income tax revenues from corporations have dropped significantly from over 25 percent of total tax revenue in the 1960s to less than 9 percent now. - Reuven Avi-Yonah, The American Prospect, 2000


* The problem is that food is neither produced nor distributed equitably. All too frequently, the poor in fertile developing countries stand by watching with empty hands-and empty stomachs-while ample harvests are exported for hard cash. Short-term profits for a few, long-term losses for many. Hunger is a question of maldistribution and inequality-not lack of food. That is why, despite abundance, hunger hovers; despite progress, poverty persists.-The World Health Organization, Determinants of Malnutrition, 2001

* The number of chronically hungry people in the world has increased since the early 1990s, after declining steadily during the previous two decades. This was mainly because there has been little progress in reducing poverty. The widening gap in income distribution in many parts of the world is also a worrying trend for undernourishment.-United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, The State of Food and Agriculture, 1998


* Globalization and tax competition have led to a fiscal crisis for countries that wish to continue providing social insurance to their citizens, at the same time that demographic factors and increased income inequality, job insecurity, and income volatility resulting from globalization have rendered such social insurance more necessary. By default, the only recourse under current tax structures is to cut the social safety net.-Reuven Avi-Yonah, The American Prospect, 2000

* The results of water price increases and privatization brought on by World Bank and IMF loan conditions can be seen in a recent case study from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Those who were too poor to pay for their water had their supplies cut off. They then resorted to polluted river water, resulting in an outbreak of cholera that has already claimed 32 lives.-Globalization Challenge Initiative, Water Privatization Fact Sheet, 2001


* One fourth of almost 500 American Corporate executives polled [by the Wall Street Journal] admitted that they were 'very likely' to use NAFTA as a bargaining chip to hold down wages. The labor secretariat of NAFTA surveyed firms who faced union organizing drives since NAFTA was passed and found that the majority of them threatened to shut down operations if the union won. Fifteen percent of the firms actually did close all or part of a plant when they had to bargain with a union. This was three times the rate of such incidents that occurred before NAFTA.-Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA at Seven, 2001

* At the end of 1998, some one billion workers-one third of the world's labor force-were either unemployed or underemployed, the worst this figure has been since the Great Depression of the 1930s. - International Labor Organization, World Employment Report 1998 - 1999

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