The world must reverse the explosion in inequality which endangers us all.
In his 2023 SDG Progress Report, the UN secretary-general finds that SDG10—reducing inequality—is one of the worst performing SDGs. Action has never been more urgent on this goal, because during the COVID-19 pandemic and global inflation crisis, inequality of income, wealth and health outcomes has risen sharply. This is true within countries, and between them (because poorer countries lacked finances to support incomes of the poor or confront COVID-19 and AIDS pandemics). Without decisive action, most of the other SDGs—on poverty, health and pandemics, social and environmental progress—will be fatally compromised.
This policy brief makes the case for rapidly accelerating efforts to reduce inequality, through four steps:
- The world must adopt much more accurate and stronger indicators to measure inequality under SDG10, which focus on trends across all incomes. These should include the Gini coefficient and Palma ratio of both income and wealth, and an indicator to measure inequality among countries.
- These indicators should be accompanied by ambitious targets, such as a Gini coefficient of 0.25 and a Palma ratio of 1, which evidence shows are the optimal levels to achieve for a range of other economic and social indicators, and which have already been reached by more than 10 countries
- To improve monitoring, there must be a revolution in inequality data, with the international community increasing investments in sample surveys and models, so that all countries track progress annually.
- Countries should design anti-inequality action plans as part of their national development plans, and the international community should invest far more in helping one another to design such plans.
Only by taking these steps can we end the extreme inequality and poverty crisis, achieve rapid progress on health, education and social protection, and revive prospects of meeting the SDGs by 2030.