Income inequality worldwide has reached staggering levels, due in large part to the trillions of dollars worth of unpaid labor provided by women and girls every year, according to a report from Oxfam.
In 2019, the world’s 2,153 billionaires had more wealth than 4.6 billion people combined, the report noted. The world’s 22 richest men, meanwhile, own more wealth than all of the women in Africa.
There are many factors driving this obscene inequality. Oxfam’s report focuses on the exploitation of women and girls, especially those living in poverty and those from marginalized communities.
Worldwide, women and girls perform 12.5 billion hours of unpaid labor every day, the report said. This work adds $10.8 trillion to the economy every year, Oxfam calculated, which is three times the size of the world’s tech industry.
This unpaid labor includes cooking, cleaning, and caring for others, all of which the report calls essential tasks for keeping the global economy functioning.
These disparities in wealth and gender equality are expected to worsen due to cuts in public spending, global climate change, and aging populations around the world.
“While the rich and powerful elite may be able to buy their way out of facing the worst of these crises, the poor and powerless will not,” Oxfam’s report said.
Oxfam called on the world’s goverments to, “act now to build a human economy that is feminist and values what truly matters to society, rather than fueling an endless pursuit of profit and wealth.
The report also outlined proposals to mitigate gender and wealth inequality. The authors propose investing in national care systems that would provide clean water and sanitation, elder care, as well as paid parental leave. They also argue for taxing the wealthy and legislation to protect the rights and wages of care workers.
The United Nations’ Global Goals include the pursuit of gender equality for sustainable development. The UN argues that equal rights and opportunities for women will fuel economic development and benefit society as a whole. The UN has also called gender inequality one of the biggest barriers to human progress. However, progress for women in achieving the Global Goals has been slow.