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When It Comes to Tackling Inequality, Start Early

Ana Revenga's picture
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It seems that everyone is talking about inequality these days, and I, for one, am happy to see this issue at the forefront in the development discussion.

We can look at inequality in a number of ways, which are not unrelated. One of the most visible types of inequality on the radar is inequality of outcomes — things like differences in academic achievements, career progression, earnings, etc. — which, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. Rewarding an individual’s effort, innate talents and superior life choices can provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and can help drive growth.  

However, not all inequalities are “good.” When inequality perpetuates itself because those born poor consistently do not have access to the same opportunities as those born rich, what emerges is a deep structural inequality that is bad for poverty reduction, bad for economic growth, and bad for social cohesion. How pervasive are these deep inequalities? Much more than we would like. Indeed, when we examine what is happening in many countries around the world today, we find large and persistent, even growing, gaps in earnings between rich and poor. And we find that those who start out in poverty or are part of a disadvantaged group tend to remain there, with little opportunity to work their way out.

How do we explain this, and what can we do to tackle it? We need to take a step back and look at where this inequality originates, and that is where the concept of equality of opportunity comes in to play. This concept broadly refers to access to a basic set of services that are necessary, at the minimum, for a child to attain his or her human potential, regardless of the circumstances — such as gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and family background — into which he or she is born. Too often, access to such basic services like electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care and education is much lower among children born into circumstances that place them at a disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged groups thus set off on an unequal path from day one, which curbs their opportunities and potential into adulthood.

Why Finance Ministers Care About Climate Change & Sustainable Development

Rachel Kyte's picture

If you want to fundamentally change how countries use energy, value their natural environments, or combat climate change, you have to talk to the people who hold the purse strings.

That’s what we’re doing this week. Finance ministers from countries around the world are in Washington for the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. We’re talking with them about these issues and more as we help countries shift to more sustainable development.

Underlying everything: climate change. This isn’t just an environmental challenge – it’s a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty. I can’t repeat that often enough. If the world does not take bold action now, a disastrously warming planet threatens to put prosperity out of reach for millions and roll back decades of development.

Toilet Stories

Submitted on Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:33

Toilets - everyone has a story to tell about these. The World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia online communications team reflects on global sanitation issues and their personal experiences on World Toilet Day.

Up to the Knees, Down to the Knees
John Mackedon (USA), Online Communications Officer

“Up to the knees – down to the knees.” Though nonsensical the first time I heard it, this mantra soon defined the five years I lived in the country, Georgia. Growing up in the United States had allowed me to remain ignorant of one of the most critical topics in the global health discourse: unsanitary toilets.  This ignorance soon turned to shock, dismay and finally, acceptance, as I mastered rolling up pants and perfected a mean squat.

With World Toilet Day upon us, I reflect on this transformation and my thoughts go out to anyone around the world who is denied access to such a fundamental need.  I think back on some of most unsavory locations I have encountered over the years and am acutely aware that even today, someone might consider that an unknown luxury. I hope there comes a day when “up to the knees – down to the knees” seems as unfamiliar to anyone in the developing world as it once did to me.

Views From Brazil, Ecuador and India: What Will It Take to End Poverty?

Mehreen Arshad Sheikh's picture

Our World Bank community has been out in the field with video cameras asking families, farmers, workers and parents from all corners of the globe: What will it take… to improve your life?.. to get a better job? … to end poverty?

As part of our global conversation on social media and multimedia, we have received video from countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Tanzania, Laos and India. People are sharing their ideas, their hopes and their solutions for creating a better life for all.

Here are three views on #whatwillittake:

In Brazil, Maria José dos Santos tells us that providing more schools and childcare would allow mothers to get fulltime jobs. “It would be great if everybody had more access to child care and all day schools. That would enable mothers to work in peace.”

Longreads: Hope Withers With Harvest, More Fish More Money, Aging Workforces Drive Jobs to SE Asia, Mapping Toilets in Mumbai

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

Drought, food prices, and global warming remain hot topics as crops in the United States wilt under the hot sun, raising fears of another food price crisis. The Guardian chronicles the corn belt’s adverse conditions – and the implications for the rest of the world in “America’s Corn Farmers High and Dry as Hope Withers With Their Harvest.” (For a view from South Africa on the drought’s ripple effect, see Independent Online’s “US drought puts pressure on SA food prices”.) On another food supply issue, Co.exist highlights a new study on the costs and benefits of rebuilding global fisheries in “More Fish Means More Money.” The bottom line: rebuilding fisheries would begin to pay off in 12 years, the study says. The New York Times blog India Ink relates an effort to address another huge challenge—access to sanitation—in “Mapping Toilets in a Mumbai Slum Yields Unexpected Results.” Bloomberg looks at the coming demographic dividend in Southeast Asia, where young workers are expected to gain jobs as workforces age in Japan, Korea and China.

Putting safe water on the development agenda

Christopher Walsh's picture

April 23, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. Water and Sanitation Event.

Not even the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull could keep the Netherlands’ Prince of Orange, the chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and the World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from participating in a Davos-style panel discussion of solutions for the 2.6 billion people who still lack access to sanitation.

The BBC’s Katty Kay moderated today’s official Spring Meetings event, which also included South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Patience Sonjica; Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Gloria Steele; Ek Sonn Chan from Cambodia’s General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; and IFC’s Executive VP Lars Thunell.

I haven’t seen the Bank’s J building mini-amphitheater filled with that much energy since, well, ever.  The standing room-only event started with a delighted Ngozi acknowledging the crowd for bringing the issue of water and sanitation to such a high level on the occasion of the Spring Meetings.