Closing The Gap

Global wealth inequality is 'founded on sexism,' says Oxfam International

Bangladeshi female workers work at a garment factory in Savar outskirts of Dhaka on January 14, 2020.
Mehedi Hasan | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Wealth inequality is also a story of gender inequality.

Or more precisely, wealth inequality is in part because of gender inequality, according to Oxfam International's latest report on global inequality, released Sunday.

There were 2,153 billionaires in 2019, and together they have the same amount of wealth as of the poorest 4.6 billion people in the world, according to Oxfam, the non-profit aimed at alleviating global poverty.

In addition to the wealth gap, the Oxfam report focused on the financial gap between genders.

"Our economic system was built by rich and powerful men, who continue to make the rules and reap the lion's share of the benefit. Worldwide men own 50% more wealth than women," the report says.

Looking at a list of the richest people in the world reinforces this point: It's overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Taken together, the wealth of the richest 22 men in the world equal all of the wealth of the women in Africa, the report says.

5 ways to reduce income inequality
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The imbalance of wealth between men and women is at least partially due to the unpaid care work (taking care of children, elders and the ill) and domestic work (cooking cleaning washing, mending, fetching water and firewood) that women are often responsible for.

The total value to the economy of women's unpaid care work is at least $10.8 trillion per year, Oxfam reports, which is three times larger than the value of the global tech industry, Oxfam says.

"This figure, while huge, is an underestimate" Oxfam writes. For instance, it does not take into account "the broader value to society of care work and how our economy would grind to a halt without this support.

"What is clear is that this unpaid work is fueling a sexist economic system that takes from the many and puts money in the pockets of the few," Oxfam writes.

In the United States, women spend 37% more time doing unpaid care work than men, Oxfam reports in an accompanying report also released Sunday, which focuses on the U.S.

That equals 2.1 extra hours per day of unpaid care work for women. Over a year, that means women are working more than 95 extra 8-hour-days for no pay, the report says.

This time spent doing care work limit's women's career choices, income and personal development, according to Oxfam's U.S. report.

Globally, the economic imbalance between men and women ought to be addressed with what Oxfam's report calls "the transformative '4Rs' framework": Recognize unpaid and poorly paid care work, which is primarily done by women; reduce the amount of time spent on unpaid care via technology and supportive services; redistribute unpaid care work within the household and within society to the government and private sector; and represent the most marginalized caregivers in the design and delivery of policies and services that will affect them.

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