Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inequality in the News

Germany’s 1%  own an average 800,000 euros ($1.1 million) per person, while roughly a fifth of the German population had not amassed any private capital at all. All in all, the average German adult owned 29,000 euros.
Data collected in 2007 and  figures from 2012 show the gap between the rich and the poor had widened further.

Meanwhile in Africa  high economic growth rates usually expressed in GDP in a number of African countries mask widening inequality between a wealthy minority that is growing richer and the poor who, in many cases, are becoming poorer, a new report said.  Between 1986 and 2010, the share of total income earned by the richest 10 percent increased by 75 percent in Nigeria and 50 percent in Ghana, and income inequality in Zambia hit its highest level since records began. Much of the wealth produced by the elite in the countries studied escapes offshore to tax havens where it cannot be taxed, the report said. Countries that are rich in natural resources are particularly vulnerable because the natural resource sector is “known to be rife with tax-dodging techniques,” it added. In Kenya only 100 HNWI (high net worth individuals) are registered with the tax authority even though the country has 142 Kenyan shilling billionaires, whose net worth exceeds $30 million each

Jake Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington, recently published a book addressing wage inequality in the working class. The declining number of organized labor unions is leading to growing inequality among America’s workers, says Jake Rosenfeld, in “What Unions No Longer Do.”

“Average American workers who are trying to gain a foothold in a fast changing economy are really struggling,” Rosenfeld said. “Part of that struggle is that there’s no organized presence to help them as there once was in the form of a labor union.”
According to Rosenfeld, during the 1970s, one out of every three private sector workers was part of a labor union. Today, about one in every 20 workers is part of a labor union. Rosenfeld said he believes the lack of organization and unification among the working class that used to occur through labor unions is increasing racial inequality, lowering wages, and making integration more difficult for immigrants.

“Labor unions were an integral part of the working community,” Rosenfeld said. “They raised wages for millions of workers who might have only had a high school degree and delivered key benefits in terms of retirement packages.”

George Lovell, professor of political science at the University of Washington said there’s a dramatic concentration of wealth at the top of the economic scale that is connected to the lack of union political presence lobbying against this concentration of wealth. Unions used to be a powerful economic force that helped maintain wages for union workers and many other workers. With a lesser union presence, there is a growing inequality of wages among the working class.

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