New Delhi: India’s richest 10% control more than 74% of the national wealth, while poor women and girls—the bottom of the economic heap—put in ₹19 trillion of unpaid care work every year, Oxfam India said in a report that highlights the need for Asia’s third-largest economy to plug a growing rich-poor gap.
The report, “Time to care", released in Davos, Switzerland, said the gap becomes even wider when considering the richest 1% of Indians: they hold 42.5% of the national wealth, while the bottom 50%, the majority of the population, has a mere 2.8% share of the national wealth.
The non-government organization (NGO) said the top 1% holds more than four times the wealth held by 953 million Indians, who make up the poorest 70% of the population.
The findings come at a time when the government is preparing to present the Union budget for FY21 seeking to address an economic downturn, distress in the rural economy, and improve incomes and add new jobs. The Narendra Modi administration has been following a progressive taxation policy and higher welfare spending to try and tackle income inequality.
The Oxfam report makes a strong case for raising taxes on corporations and rich individuals to tackle poverty and lift the responsibility of care from women. It said successive governments are “massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations" and “underfunding vital public services and infrastructure" that could help reduce the workload of women and girls.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women… The gap between the rich and the poor cannot be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these," Oxfam India chief executive officer Amitabh Behar said in a statement. The report said its findings call for a dialogue on the rising income disparity in the world’s largest democracy.
Women’s unpaid care work, it said, is taken for granted or perceived as an act of love, ignoring the physical, mental and emotional effort it requires. Investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare and healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life.
“Governments must ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure," said the NGO. It also argued that people who care for parents, children and the most vulnerable, an important social function, should be paid a living wage.