OECD report on the urgent need to tackle inequality
19th March 2014
A recent OECD report (Society at a Glance 2014) argues that "Income inequality and social divisions could worsen and become entrenched unless governments act quickly to boost support for the most vulnerable in society".
"Society at a Glance 2014 highlights the impact of the crisis across a range of indicators:
- The number of people living in households without any income from work has doubled in Greece, Ireland and Spain, and risen by 20% or more in Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and the United States.
- Poorer households have lost greater shares of their incomes than the better-off or benefited less in the recovery – particularly in Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain.
- Young people are at greater risk of poverty than before the crisis: the share of 18-25 year-olds in households with incomes below half the national median has climbed in most countries – by 5 percentage points in Estonia, Spain and Turkey, by 4 points in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and by 3 points in Greece and Italy.
- The share of people who report that they cannot afford to buy enough food increased in 23 countries, particularly in Greece and Hungary, but also in the United States.
- Fertility rates have dropped further since the crisis, deepening the demographic and fiscal challenges of ageing. Having risen since 2000 to reach 1.75 children per woman in 2008, they have fallen back to 1.70, as lower and uncertain incomes may have caused more people to delay parenthood or have fewer children.
- While it is too early to quantify the longer-term effects of the crisis on people’s health, unemployment and economic difficulties are known to contribute to a range of health issues, including mental illness.
- Spending on education has fallen relative to GDP in half of the OECD countries since the start of the crisis, with cuts especially sharp in Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. Such cuts will affect the poorest in society the most, says the OECD, and in the long-term could lead to reduced student participation, poorer outcomes and reduced upward mobility for children from low-income families."