Capitalism has generated the highest level of economic inequality in human history.
According to the latest World Wealth Report, published annually by French consultancy company Capgemini, the wealthiest 2.1 million people—just 0.027 percent of the world’s population—in 2020 had a combined wealth of more than $45 trillion.
The ten richest people in the world own more than the bottom 3.1 billion people, according to the latest research by Oxfam, a British charity, and their fortunes have doubled during the pandemic.
Yet for most of the world’s population, the pandemic has been disastrous. It’s not just the millions of deaths; more than 160 million extra people have been forced into poverty, and incomes have fallen for almost everyone.
Nearly 700 million people are in extreme poverty—living on less than US$1.90 per day. According to the United Nations Development Program, more than 850 million people are undernourished.
The inequality appears worst in the Global South, where millions of landless labourers in Asia, Latin America and Africa fight for the right to work for a pittance. Factories producing components for Western export markets employ millions of workers for a fraction of the retail price of the goods that they make.
In the Middle East and North Africa, entire generations of young university graduates complete their studies only to find no jobs left for them. In India, where more than 400 million peasants and landless labourers live in poverty, the countryside is scarred by an epidemic of suicides among farmers who cannot repay their debts.
But it’s not only in underdeveloped countries that we find economic inequality and injustice. In the West, whole sections of the population have been devastated by unemployment, stagnant wages and ever rising prices for accommodation.
Unemployment in the European Union is officially 14 million. Government austerity over the last fifteen years has slashed social security and pensions. In the United States, nearly 40 million live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.
In Australia as well, the so-called lucky country, it’s a tale of two classes. During the pandemic, the country’s 47 billionaires increased their combined wealth by $2,376 per second, or more than $205 million a day. Their fortune of $255 billion is more than that of the poorest 7.7 million people in the country.
Meanwhile, wages have stagnated for a decade, more than 100,000 are homeless, and millions struggle to pay the bills.
The reality is that, despite the enormous wealth being generated every year, the capitalist system simply cannot meet the basic needs of the world’s population.
“On the day of my mother’s funeral, I went home and wrote reports”, Kate says. She’s a public high school teacher and, along with 50,000 others, many also from Catholic schools, she’s striking to demand better pay and reduced workloads from the New South Wales government.
Nurses and midwives in New South Wales have rejected the state government’s insulting offer of a 3 percent pay rise in a combative, all-membership meeting at Sydney’s Town Hall.
Fifteen years ago, the John Howard federal Coalition government launched a military invasion and occupation of Aboriginal townships and lands in the Northern Territory. More than 600 military and police personnel, accompanied by a phalanx of government bureaucrats, entered 73 Aboriginal communities, placing them under the unilateral control of the Australian army.
Around the US, tens of thousands have hit the streets slamming the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a right. In Manhattan, a large crowd of young, multiracial activists marched, chanting “Fuck the Supreme Court!”
In the late 1960s, cryptic notes began to appear on poles and noticeboards around Chicago, directing women who were pregnant and in trouble to “call Jane”. The number provided connected them to the Jane Collective (officially the Abortion Counselling Service of Women’s Liberation), an underground network of activists providing illegal abortions in the years before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. This collective is the subject of The Janes, a new HBO documentary directed by Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin.
Anthony Albanese started his victory speech on election night with a commitment that his government would implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, beginning with a referendum to create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in its first term.