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By Global Public Square staff
If there's one country in the world that looks like a utopia, its name must be Switzerland. This is a country that has it all. The average income is $82,000 a year – 65 percent more than the average American income. Everyone has great healthcare, childcare, and education. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. There is almost no corruption. According to the OECD, of 34 developed countries surveyed, the Swiss have the greatest degree of trust in their government. And, of course, it is a spectacular country with great traditions of skiing, cheese, chocolate, and wine.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually.
The Swiss are furious about income inequality. The story is a familiar one. According to Reuters, in 1984 top earners in Swiss firms made 6 times as much as the bottom earners. Today, they make 43-times what bottom earners make. At some banks and firms, CEOs make 200-times the salary of the lowest-paid employee.
By Katie Simmons, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Katie Simmons is a research associate with the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are her own.
Income inequality has been growing at an increasingly rapid pace. And publics around the world – and especially in Europe – are taking note.
Inequality in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries increased more over the first three years of the global downturn than in the previous 12 years combined, according to a recent report by the group. And large majorities believe that their particular nation’s economic system favors the wealthy, according to a new 39-country survey by the Pew Research Center, with many in major eurozone countries expressing alarm over these trends.
The poll – which spanned the Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa – found that clear majorities in 31 of the 39 nations surveyed said the wealth gap in their country has gotten worse over the past five years. Europeans are especially likely to think inequality has increased, including about nine in ten in Spain (90 percent), Germany (88 percent), Greece (88 percent) and Italy (88 percent). Latin American publics, meanwhile, are the least likely to say the income gap has worsened in their nation, with roughly half or less in most of these countries believing inequality has risen. (And they may have good reason – a 2013 World Bank report found that economic inequality actually declined in most countries in the region between 2000 and 2010).
By Stewart M. Patrick and Isabella Bennett, CFR
Stewart M. Patrick is director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Isabella Bennett is program coordinator. This entry of The Internationalist originally appeared here. The views expressed are solely those of Stewart M. Patrick and Isabella Bennett.
Guor Marial, a cross-country All-American athlete at Iowa State, ran two marathons in Olympic qualifying times. But with no passport and no country — and no coach nor a sponsor — he watched the Summer Games’ opening ceremony from Flagstaff, Arizona.
After fleeing from a Sudanese refugee camp at the age of 8, Marial had eventually escaped to Egypt and then the United States, where he lives as a permanent U.S. resident but without citizenship.
The day before the competition began, the International Olympic Committee finally granted Marial permission to run as an independent athlete. Marial, who works at night and trains by day, finished 47th in London. No medal, but a rare triumph for the world’s stateless.
As many as 15 million people worldwide cannot claim a state as their own, because they lack legal citizenship or formal documentation of their status. They are, in effect, “legal ghosts,” lacking even the “right to have rights.” And unlike Marial, many are not even considered refugees — placing them in a precarious legal limbo. They may be deprived of education, employment, housing, public health and welfare benefits, the right to vote, and access to legal justice.
By Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Special to CNN
Sherif Elsayed-Ali is head of refugee and migrants’ rights at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.
A tense political situation deteriorates; violence rapidly escalates with dire effects on the civilian population – people are killed indiscriminately, property is destroyed and what starts as a slow trickle of refugees into neighboring countries becomes a mass displacement.
That was Iraq in 2006. In 2012 it’s Syria.
And there’s a tragic irony because Syria is not only Iraq's immediate neighbor, but also a country that was host to more than one million Iraqi refugee at the height of the displacement crisis.
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - CNN iReport is asking people all over the world to give up driving for a day - and document it - in support of women in Saudi Arabia, who aren't allowed to drive because of religious rules in that conservative Middle Eastern kingdom.
Editor's note: Christopher Sabatini is the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and senior director of policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas. The views in this article are solely those of Christopher Sabatini.
By Christopher Sabatini - Special to CNN
Social inclusion. Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has theorized about it. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala campaigned on it. Multilateral banks now regularly profess their commitment to it. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that U.S. foreign policy should promote it.
But what is it? The concept of social inclusion revolves around the idea that a citizen has the right and ability to participate in the basic economic, political and social functioning of his or her society. It’s more than economic enrichment, centered on access to basic public and private goods such as health care, formal employment, education, adequate housing, political and civil rights, and economic opportunity without discrimination.
It involves more than just reducing poverty and economic inequality. And if the U.S. is going to promote it, then there must be meaningful — even measurable — differences between countries that would provide foreign policymakers with priorities or targets of opportunity.
Unfortunately, in an index of social inclusion in Latin America recently developed by the journal I publish, Americas Quarterly, the countries south of the U.S. border face a number of differences and challenges. They indicate that despite all the feel-good rhetoric about social inclusion, this is going to be difficult to tackle meaningfully as a U.S. foreign policy issue.
Editor's Note: Andrew G. Berg and Jonathan D. Ostry are, respectively, ASsistant Director and Deputy Director in the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund. The views expressed here are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the IMF.
Looking back at Irving Kristol's 1980 essay "Some Personal Reflections on Economic Well-Being and Income Distribution," as Foreign Affairsrecently did, provides a useful intellectual lens from the past to focus the economic conversation today. Kristol argued that economic inequality was "but one manifestation of how nineteenth-century ideologies - and most especially the socialist ideologies - have so decisively shaped modern social science." Moreover, he wrote, income distribution does not really change over time so it is, as a subject for study, inconsequential.
Fortunately, economists failed to take his advice; recent studies of inequality reveal the limitation of Kristol's historical perspective. Kristol narrowly focused on one long spell of stable and relatively even distribution. But a careful look at the varying levels of inequality in different countries demonstrates just how much societal divides in wealth really matter. Countries with high inequality are far more likely to fall into financial crisis and far less likely to sustain economic growth. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Pranab Bardhan is Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley and the author, most recently, of Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Rise of China and India.
By Pranab Bardhan, Project Syndicate
Inequality is on the public’s mind almost everywhere nowadays. Indeed, in the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States, widespread popular movements against rising inequality and elite greed are becoming highly salient issues in looming national elections.
Yet, in both countries, some social inequalities have been on the decline over the last few decades. In India, certain historically disadvantaged groups (particularly among the lower castes) are now politically assertive. The most egregious vestiges of caste discrimination are gradually disappearing. Similarly, in the U.S., discrimination against women, African-Americans, Latinos, and homosexuals is declining.
These developments reflect a democratic advance in both countries. At the same time, however, the fabric of democracy is being torn apart by a staggering rise in economic inequality. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Dr Grenville is a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy and works as a consultant on financial sector issues in East Asia. Between 1982 and 2001 he worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia, for the last five years as Deputy Governor and Board member. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Stephen Grenville.
By Stephen Grenville, Lowy Interpreter
It's been well known for decades that incomes of less-skilled workers in advanced countries have been squeezed by globalization (they now have to compete with Chinese workers) and technology (their jobs are increasingly done by machines/computers).
In the U.S., hourly earnings of those who did not finish high school have fallen by one-fifth over the past three decades and those in the lowest quintile of the income distribution have had almost no increase in their after-tax income.
But something else has happened, captured in the data of a recently-released US Congressional Budget Office Report, which Paul Krugman calls the 'rise of the oligarchs'. Between 1997 and 2007 the top 1 per cent of the income distribution have taken their share of total income from 8 per cent to 17 per cent. Within this group, the top 0.1 per cent have raised their share even more sharply. FULL POST