Dr. Marjorie Wood, senior global economy associate for the Institute for Policy Studies and managing editor of website Inequality.org, said a suite of socially regressive measures rolled out across the United States and the world had contributed greatly to the deepening income inequality.
“It’s important to look at how workers have been disempowered since the 1970s. Union strength was high at that time, and robust taxes on the wealthy and corporations funded public investments to allow opportunity and mobility for ordinary people,” Wood told IPS.
“We’ve seen a reversal of those, into a system what was much more unequal, with wealth concentrated at the top.”
She said a deepening income inequality would have profound impacts on all facets of life, from democracy and politics to social affairs.
“In unequal societies, democracies are more likely to be corrupted, workers are more likely to be exploited and abused, and the safety net for the poor or vulnerable is weakened,” she said.
The ILO report states social unrest and possible violence is linked to rising inequality and youth unemployment. Social unrest is said to have “shot up” during the financial crisis, and worldwide, currently sits at 10 percent higher than before the crisis.
However, Wood said she was encouraged by a growing call for a federally mandated minimum living wage in the U.S., and worldwide calls for a fairer distribution of income.
“People are not satisfied with rising inequality today, just as they weren’t satisfied 100 years ago in the USA’s first ‘gilded age.’ They addressed it then by fighting back, with a robust labour movement, and I think we will do it again,” she said.
“We’re seeing worker justice movements in many places, where people collectively organise to make change. That is where true political change comes from.”