US doing 'very badly' in combating inequality - here’s how other countries compare

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US doing 'very badly' in combating inequality - here’s how other countries compare

A homeless man sleeps under an American Flag blanket on a park bench on September 10, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

The U.S. is doing "very badly" at tackling inequality, and President Donald Trump's tax reforms, if enacted, could see the country sink below Greece and some third world countries in the equality stakes, according to new research from Oxfam.

Despite being the richest country in the world, the U.S.'s commitment to social spending, labor policy and tax reforms falls well below that of other countries, particularly those within The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Oxfam's new Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRI), released Monday, ranks the U.S. 23rd out of 152 countries for its commitment to stemming and re-balancing national inequality levels. That's behind Portugal, Slovenia, and South Africa. Overhauls of the country's healthcare policies and tax landscape could see the country slump further, past the likes of Greece (25th), Argentina (26th) and Hungary (28th), the report suggests.

"The USA is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, but its level of inequality is also the highest among major industrial countries, leaving tens of millions of working people impoverished," the report says.

"Massive tax cuts proposed by President Trump would make this worse. A lot of social spending disproportionately benefits the wealthy, and spending focused on the poor like Medicaid could soon see draconian cuts that would strip millions of people of their health insurance."

The report, conducted in collaboration with Development Finance International, also points to "worsening" labor policy and insufficient minimum wage thresholds. It claims that under the Trump administration, these inequalities will be neglected while businesses benefit from tax cuts.

"The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is well below the $10.60 per hour needed for a family of four to reach the federal poverty line, and there is little possibility of a raise in the coming years. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is rolling back worker protections, including safety regulations, the right to organize, and overtime pay," the report says.

It adds that the U.S. plays a significant role as a corporate tax haven and/or secrecy jurisdiction, and said its tax ranking would likely slip lower when this is properly accounted for in future indices.

European countries, in particular, emerged as among the most committed to tackling inequality, but the report highlights that even the best-performing countries, and their leaders, must maintain and improve their policies to reflect changes in society.

"For most rich countries, the main body of policies measured by the index was introduced in a different period of history, when significant action in these areas was broadly accepted as the right thing to do and paid dividends in terms of social and economic progress.

"Today, in many countries, political support for these measures has eroded."

Below are the best - and worst - countries, according to the report:

  • 1st - Sweden

    Sweden was top of the ranking, demonstrating "some of the most progressive taxation and spending in the world," according to the report.

    Oxfam also points to the country's positive labor market policies and dedication to equality in the workplace. However, it highlights that relative poverty in Sweden has risen substantially in recent decades, and it now sits in 12th place in the Gini coefficient - a global measure of income distribution across individuals and households.

    People attend a memorial ceremony at Sergels Torg plaza in Stockholm, Sweden on April 9, 2017 close to the point where a truck drove into a department store two days before
    Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images
  • 2nd - Belgium

    Belgium has a historically good record for its progressive tax system and strong social welfare, causing it to rank in second place.

    But this model is currently under pressure, the report suggests, as the country proposes cuts to corporation tax alongside social spending cuts.

    People write messages on the ground at a makeshift memorial at Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) following attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016.
    Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images
  • 3rd - Denmark

    "High and progressive taxation, high social spending and good protection of workers" helped Denmark to score highly in the first edition of Oxfam's CRI.

    Increasingly, though, new governments have been looking at ways to reduce all three in an effort to liberalize the country's economy.

    Visitors crowd the waterfront cafes by the Nyhavn canal in Copenhagen on October 9, 2015.
    Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images
  • 4th - Norway

    The report highlights Norway's treatment of unions and women as among the best in the world but argues that its minimum wage is not as generous as most other rich nations.

    Demonstrators hold banners during a meeting of Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Oslo on June 23, 2017.
    Haakon Mosvold Larsen | AFP | Getty Images
  • 5th - Germany

    While Germany ranks highly for its commitment to social spending, labor policy, and tax reforms, it is also home to one of the highest gender pay gaps in the EU - more than 20 percent - and stagnating wages across many sectors.

    "Moreover," the report adds, "Germany is among the countries with the highest wealth inequality in the EU and successive governments have done little to change that."

    Tens of thousands demonstrate during a protesters march against the G20 Summit with the topic 'Solidarity without borders instead of G20!' on July 8, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.
    Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images
  • 6th - 20th

    6. Finland

    7. Austria

    8. France

    9. Netherlands

    10. Luxembourg

    11. Japan

    12. Iceland

    13. Ireland

    14. Australia

    15. Canada

    16. Italy

    17. United Kingdom

    18. Switzerland

    19. Portugal

    20. Slovenia

  • Last - Nigeria

    In 152nd place, Nigeria emerged as the least equal of all countries surveyed, ranking as the worst for social spending and very poorly for taxation and labor rights. Oxfam research suggests that five Nigerian men have enough wealth to end the extreme poverty which dogs the rest of the country.

    "This deep inequality is a product of policies that exclude the majority from the beginning: a culture of patriarchy, cronyism, the multiple and heavy taxation of the poor while big multinationals evade tax, high prohibitive costs of governance, weak policy implementation, elite capture and a poor budgeting system," the report writes.

    Over the past two decades, Nigeria has made over $700 billion from oil, but 69 percent of the population still live on less than $1.25 per day, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. 10 million Nigerians are out of school, and 1 in 10 die before their 5th birthday.

    A protester carries a placard deploring poor social services in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, on January 11, 2012.
    Aminu Abubakar | AFP | Getty Images