Oxfam Scotland Guest Blog: Why Inequality is a problem that we can’t afford to ignore

Oxfam Scotland is once again delighted to be supporting the Take One Action Film Festival. We are particularly pleased to be able to present this year two films: “Inequality for All” and “Light Fly Fly High”.

Both these films explore the impact of inequality in different ways on individuals lives bringing to life the injustices faced and the challenges to the system that are being made around the world. This is an important issue to Oxfam as we campaign to ensure that politicians, at Scottish, U.K and Global levels, seek solutions to the growing problem of inequality

Last year, the income of the richest 100 billionaires was enough to end global poverty twice over.  And research published by Oxfam earlier this year showed that almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

In Scotland, Oxfam has recently been focussing on inequality as part of the wider debate surrounding the referendum, by asking both sides what they would do to close the inequality gap. Oxfam doesn’t take a view on the outcome of the referendum but we are clear that we need policies on work and wages that allow people to provide for their families. Between now and polling day on September 18, we’re asking Scots to take advantage of this opportunity to challenge both sides to tell them how they believe we can best tackle inequality.

You can take part here.

Some people may argue that inequality isn’t really a problem as wealth trickles down from those at the top so that everyone benefits. However, the evidence shows this is simply not the case.

Data revealed by the Scottish Government in June showed that 820,000 people in Scotland are living in poverty; that’s a rise of 110,000 on the previous year. Some 180,000 of the total are children.

And, as well as falling below the poverty line, many people are forced to walk the bread line too.

Last year 71,000 people used Trussell Trust foodbanks alone – a fivefold increase.

For us, like two sides of the same coin, poverty and inequality are inextricably linked; we don’t believe there can be a sustained end to poverty without challenging extreme inequality.

The good news is that none of this is inevitable. We can close the inequality gap.

We know that inequality arises because of our economic and political choices but we must move beyond recognising there’s a problem to actually tackling it.

Globally, there’s an opportunity to ensure that reducing inequality is central to the development of the new Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 period.

In Scotland, and indeed across the U.K, we need adequate social protection for those who are unable to work, or who can’t find employment. We need to ensure that our public services, particularly health and education, are the strong tools in challenging inequality which we know they can be.

But we also need a fairer redistribution of resources.

The tax system must ensure those who can most afford to contribute do indeed pay their fair share.

And crucially, as we seek to tackle inequality the voices of people living in poverty must be heard because inequality isn’t just about money – it’s also about power, influence and wider life chances.

Here in Scotland, a boy born in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas has a life expectancy that’s 14 years below boys born in the least deprived areas.

And this form of ‘birth penalty’ is transmitted through generations. Women are also impacted by inequality worst of all. We must recognise that inequality harms everyone, and that tackling it will benefit us all. Momentum is growing, but political rhetoric is no longer enough.

We really hope that you will be able to join us for the screenings of “Inequality for All” and “Light Fly Fly High” and for the discussions afterwards. But more importantly, we hope that you make your voice heard in the call for the urgent political action which will be required at local, national and global levels if we are to have any hope of rising to the challenge of extreme inequality.

Graham Burgess, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam Scotland