Inequality reduction index

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People living in a settlement walk about, as the skyline of Manila’s financial district is seen in the background. NOEL CELIS/AFP

REDUCING inequality is one of the priorities of the countries that are part of the commitment to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. How are the governments working towards this goal?

To answer this question, Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI) released the second index “to measure the commitment of governments to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor”.

The index covers 157 countries and ranks them on the basis of their social spending, progressive taxation and labour rights – three areas found to be critical to reducing the gap.

In Asia, Japan ranks the highest in terms of investing towards reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. Japan ranked 11 globally is the only Asian country to figure in the top 20. It has considerably increased its tax collection and significantly increased minimum wages as well.

South Korea ranked 58 globally and is second in Asia in its commitment to reducing inequality. The country has significantly improved in all three areas that the index considers to measure the commitment. The country has increased the minimum wage by 16.4 per cent. It has also increased taxation on profitable corporations as well as spending.

Mongolia ranks third in Asia and 58 globally. The country has substantially increased taxation for high earners to reduce the inequality. It is followed by Thailand ranked fourth in Asia and 74 globally.

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Malaysia and China are ranked 75 and 81 respectively. Indonesia globally ranked 91 has increased the minimum wages by nine per cent. It is also trying to equalise wages rapidly by increasing them more in rural areas than in urban areas. It is followed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Cambodia is ranked 121 globally owing to its very low social spending. Pakistan is ranked 137 globally. The country fares badly in social spending and taxation. It is followed by Myanmar and Nepal.

India is one of the countries that is ranked very low at 147 globally. Government spending on social protection, education and health is abysmally low. The country fares poorly in taxation and labour laws, especially women’s labour rights. It is followed by neighbouring Bangladesh.

Singapore is ranked 149 globally owing to its inadequate labour laws, low social spending – just 39 per cent of the budget goes to education, health and social protection combined. However, the country has issued a strong objection to the findings of the report. The lowest ranked Asian countries are Laos and Bhutan at 150 and 152 respectively. DataLeads/ANN