Reducing Inequality Within and Among Countries
The 2030 Agenda emphasises the importance of creating a world that is just, equitable, tolerant, open, and socially inclusive, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. While progress has been made in reducing poverty under the Millennium Development Goals, there are still significant inequalities and disparities in income, wealth, and access to necessities such as food, healthcare, education, land, and clean water
. These disparities hinder individuals from living a meaningful and dignified life.
In a world that strives for progress and development, it is crucial to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared equitably among all individuals and communities. This is the essence of Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10) - Reduced Inequalities. SDG 10 acknowledges that inclusivity and equal opportunities are essential for sustainable development. It emphasises the need for the international community to take action to reduce inequality, both within countries and across nations.
The goal encompasses 10 targets that cover a wide range of factors contributing to inequality, addressing social, economic, and political dimensions. The targets outlined in the agenda aim to foster inclusivity, social protection, and prosperity within countries, simultaneously tackling issues related to cross-border financial and human flows and striving for fair representation in global institutions. Additionally, these targets concentrate on the implementation of measures that ensure resources are allocated to those who are most in need
Why it Matters to Achieve Reduced Inequalities
Globally, income inequality among other issues has been on the rise. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, efforts to reduce inequalities are being made by governments, civil society organisations, and individuals worldwide.
According to the United Nations' current statistics, in 2020, two-thirds of the 18 countries with available data witnessed an increase in rates of relatively low income. Projections indicated a 1.2% rise in between-country inequality between 2017 and 2021, reversing the expected decline of 2.6% before the pandemic. Additionally, income inequality within countries is estimated to have increased by approximately 1% in emerging markets and developing countries, interrupting the previous decline observed since the millennium.
The factsheet also reveals that around one in five individuals have faced discrimination based on prohibited grounds under international human rights law, such as ethnicity, age, sex, disability, religion, and sexual orientation. Women in certain countries are more than twice as likely as men to experience discrimination based on their gender, while one-third of persons with disabilities have experienced discrimination.
In terms of income distribution, there has been a decline in the labour share of income from 2014 to 2019, exerting upward pressure on inequality. Displacement and forced migration have also worsened, with a record high of 24.5 million people forced to flee their countries by mid-2021. Northern Africa, Western Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean are the major regional sources of refugees. The year 2021 marked the deadliest year on record for migrants since 2017, with 5,895 deaths during their journeys.
Increase in rates of relatively low income in two-thirds of countries with available data in 2020.
Projections indicate a 1.2% rise in between-country inequality between 2017 and 2021, reversing the expected decline of 2.6%.
Approximately 1% increase in income inequality within emerging markets and developing countries, interrupting the previous decline since the millennium.
Discrimination and Human Rights
One in five individuals faces discrimination based on prohibited grounds under international human rights law.
Women in certain countries are more than twice as likely as men to experience gender-based discrimination.
One-third of persons with disabilities have experienced discrimination.
Decline in the labour share of income from 2014 to 2019, contributing to upward pressure on inequality.
Displacement and Forced Migration
A record high of 24.5 million people forced to flee their countries by mid-2021.
Northern Africa, Western Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean are major regional sources of refugees.
2021 marked the deadliest year on record for migrants since 2017, with 5,895 deaths during their journeys
These statistics underscore the urgent need to address inequalities, as inequalities have a detrimental effect on the effectiveness of poverty reduction efforts as they exclude significant populations from experiencing positive outcomes
Challenges and Issues
SDG 10 faces various challenges and issues that hinder its achievement. The impact surrounding inequalities does not only limit individual potential but also hinders social cohesion and economic progress. Over time several issues have been raised tending to impact the implementation of a successful intervention toward eradicating inequality. Some issues the World Bank has been focused on include:
Perpetuation of Inequalities through Legal and Normative Structures:
Identifying areas where legal and normative structures contribute to the perpetuation of inequalities is crucial. Interventions in these areas can be promising for addressing inequality.
Impact of Technological Trends:
The rise of digital technology and the fourth industrial revolution poses both opportunities and challenges for inequality. Understanding the implications of these emerging trends within and between countries is essential for addressing inequality effectively.
Incentivising Redistributive Policies:
Finding ways to sell the idea of equality to those who currently benefit from existing systems and making redistributive policies politically sustainable is a significant challenge. Developing strategies to incentivise support for such policies is necessary.
Shifting Focus from Nationalism and Austerity:
Counteracting trends towards nationalism, austerity measures, and trade protectionism is vital. Shifting the focus towards common interests and public goods can help tackle inequalities and promote inclusive development.
Addressing Emerging Areas of Inequality:
Identifying and addressing key emerging areas of inequality is crucial. These include gaps in technology access and advanced skills, disparities in the quality of education and healthcare, inequalities in political participation, discrepancies between urban and rural areas, and differences in exposure to disasters.
Accelerating Data Collection and Monitoring
: Expediting the collection of disaggregated data and data on the nature of discrimination is essential for monitoring progress in reducing inequality. Exploring alternative methods of monitoring and designing evidence-based policies can also contribute to effective inequality reduction.
Impact of Conflict and Violence:
Increasing conflict and violence exacerbate inequalities. Understanding the connection between these factors and their impact on inequality is crucial for developing strategies to address both issues simultaneously.
Impact of Climate Variability and Extremes
: Rising climate variability and extremes further amplify inequalities. Recognizing the intersection between climate change and inequality is vital for developing resilient and inclusive approaches to addressing both challenges.
Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive and collaborative efforts from governments, organisations, and individuals to advance the goals of SDG 10 and promote a more equitable and inclusive world.
Policy and Action Recommendations: Several innovative solutions and best practices contribute to achieving SDG 10. For example, inclusive education policies that ensure access for marginalised groups targeted social protection programs, and fair and inclusive labour market practices have proven effective. Initiatives like microfinance, entrepreneurship training, and vocational skills development empower individuals to overcome economic inequalities. However, to accelerate progress towards SDG 10, policy recommendations include implementing progressive taxation systems, investing in quality education and healthcare, promoting equal pay for equal work, and strengthening social protection systems.
In furtherance of this goal, UNESCAP has outlined key areas of focus for reducing inequalities, which encompass:
Enhancing social protection measures to provide support and security for vulnerable populations.
Giving priority to education by ensuring access to quality education for all, regardless of background or socio-economic status.
Safeguarding the poor and disadvantaged from the disproportionate effects of environmental hazards, ensuring their well-being and resilience.
Bridging the digital divide and investing in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure to ensure equitable access to digital resources and opportunities.
Tackling persistent inequalities in technological capabilities both within and between countries, promotes inclusive technological advancement.
Enhancing the effectiveness of fiscal policies to promote fairness and reduce economic disparities.
Improving data collection methods to accurately identify and address inequality gaps, enabling evidence-based policymaking.
Strengthening regional cooperation to foster collaboration and exchange of best practices in addressing inequalities.
These priorities serve as a guide for policymakers and stakeholders to concentrate their efforts on areas that have the potential to make a significant impact in reducing inequalities and advancing sustainable development.
Call to Action
Every individual has a role to play in advancing SDG 10. To support this goal, individuals can raise awareness about inequality issues, engage in responsible consumption, support organisations working towards equality, and advocate for inclusive policies in their communities. Volunteering time and skills, participating in community initiatives, and embracing diversity can create a positive impact. Advancing SDG 10 requires the collective effort of various stakeholders. Governments play a vital role in implementing inclusive policies, ensuring social protection, and promoting equal opportunities. Businesses have a responsibility to adopt fair labour practices, promote diversity and inclusion, and contribute to local economic development. Civil society organisations and individuals can advocate for policy changes, support marginalised communities, and raise awareness about inequality issues. Collaboration among stakeholders is crucial to address systemic inequalities and create an enabling environment for achieving SDG 10. By working collectively, we can create a fairer, more inclusive world where no one is left behind.
In conclusion, SDG 10 represents the collective aspiration to reduce inequalities and build a more equitable and sustainable world. By addressing the challenges, implementing effective policies, fostering partnerships, and taking individual action, we can contribute to the achievement of SDG 10 and create a future where everyone has equal opportunities and dignity. Let us embrace the call to reduce inequalities and work towards a more inclusive and prosperous world for all.
Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities: Progress and Prospects
UNESCAP. 2018. Inequality in Asia and the Pacific in the Era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/publications/ThemeStudyOnInequality.pdf
 UNESCAP. 2018. Inequality in Asia and the Pacific in the Era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/publications/ThemeStudyOnInequality.pdf