UNICEF have been doing some great work on inequality recently, and have just released a new report with lots of numbers on global and regional inequality trends. The surprise: inequality has a lot to do with age, but not much to do with gender. Here’s the facts:
1. Inequality is an age problem. Children are disproportionately likely to be in the poorest groups. If you divide the population of the world into five equal groups according to income, and if children were as likely as anyone else to be poor, you’d expect that one fifth of children would be in the poorest group and one fifth in the richest. But this isn’t the case. Only 14 per cent of children and young people are in the richest 20 per cent, while one quarter are in the poorest 20 percent. Yet another reason to get serious not just about children, but about the less photogenic and altogether more threatening problem of youth unemployment.
2. Inequality is not a gender problem. Contrary to much received wisdom, this report does not find that women are disproportionately represented among the very poor. Again dividing the world’s population into five equal groups by income, almost exactly one fifth of women are in each group. This does not mean that there are not a lot of extremely poor women, and nor does it imply that women don’t face specific barriers to earning and keeping income. But it is another nail in the coffin of the dubious ’70 per cent of the world’s poor are women’ statistic, which everyone really should have stopped using by now.
UNICEF are among the few big agencies out there making the case that inequality should be a much more mainstream part of development thinking and practice – and they’re backing this up with good solid facts and data. All power to them.