Rising inequality is a stark reality globally. Few countries, apart from the egalitarian Scandinavian nations, can say that inequality is not a major problem.
We often think of inequality in the economic sense, but a few other aspects, like social aspects, are just as serious.
Inequality is often deemed concomitant with capitalism, and occurs when the fruits of economic growth are not shared equally among all parties. This is quite true, but inequality can be an obscure topic. A true understanding of it transcends many disciplines, ranging from economics to geography, and even psychology.
More worrying are the destabilising effects that inequality can have on social and political stability. The recent protest due to the increasing number of pickpockets that led to the closure of the Eiffel Tower is an example of this (“Workers’ strike shuts down Eiffel Tower”; May 23).
What, then, should we do about it? Of utmost importance should be a concerted effort from many parties to tackle the root of the problem.
Undoubtedly, governments play the most pivotal role in alleviating inequality. However, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the public and private sectors, and even individuals, have their part to play.
Second, it is important to ascertain the causes of inequality, as these may be different for different countries or people.
In Singapore, an individual may be suffering from inequality because he was raised by a dysfunctional, uneducated family, which enmeshed him in a vicious circle of poverty.
Education as a social leveller would be beneficial in this respect.
On the other hand, having low wages due to low skill levels would require strategic reforms in employment, such as a minimum wage or raising productivity levels.
In general, education and employment are two cornerstones in mitigating inequality.
Rising inequality is a malaise plaguing society, and if unbridled, can lead to severe consequences. It is time for greater collaboration among various bodies to ameliorate the problem.
This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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