Dunja Mijatović: We must end poverty and inequality

In a new ‘Comment’ article, the Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović, makes a plea to governments to “keep their promise” and end poverty and inequality.

Mijatović writes: “Poverty and inequality are closely interlinked. People living in poverty are much more likely to be relegated to low-income work, poor housing, and inadequate health care, as well as to experience unemployment and face barriers to lifelong learning. Being born into a low-income household often limits one’s opportunities in life, leading to inferior-quality education and precarious jobs.

“This can be compounded by other circumstances affecting socio-economic status and future prospects, such as gender, age, and the place a person lives. The societal impact of inequality – perpetuated with each new generation – is considerable and potentially explosive, with trust in public institutions reaching record lows as tensions and polarisation rise.

“A global survey commissioned by Oxfam found that nearly two-thirds of all respondents think that the existing gap between the rich and the poor needs to be addressed urgently.

There is no room for complacency even in Europe, a comparatively wealthy continent. Inequality has been on the rise here as well, both among countries and within individual countries.

“According to the thematic series of papers on inequality in Europe, published by the Council of Europe Development Bank, Europeans in the top 20% of the income distribution have five times more of national income than those in the bottom 20%, with Southern and Central-Eastern Europe being the most unequal regions.

“While some Central and Eastern European countries have recently started reversing rises in inequality, in Southern Europe equality continues to deteriorate. Moreover, income mobility has declined, with those in the bottom 40% less likely to move out of their socio-economic group than they were in 2008.

“Those at the bottom have less access to quality education, making it harder to perform in a competitive education-based labour market, and are often more likely to be overburdened with housing costs.

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