Hundreds of millions of people around the globe face becoming trapped unnecessarily in extreme poverty, warns Oxfam.
Prime Minister David Cameron will soon be joining other world leaders at a UN summit, where they will promise to ‘eradicate’ extreme poverty within fifteen years.
However, Oxfam warns that this promise will be impossible to achieve without policies that will enable the poorest to benefit most from economic growth – such as tax reform, investment in public healthcare, education and living wages.
World leaders must introduce policies to help ensure that “poor people’s incomes grow faster than those of the rich”, says Oxfam. People living in extreme poverty currently earn less than $1.25 a day.
Unless rising inequality is halted by next year, the richest 1% will have accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world’s population combined.
Françoise Vanni, Oxfam Policy and Campaigns Director, said: “The end of extreme poverty is within reach – in 15 years we could live in a world where everyone has the basics they need to get by and care for their families.
“But this won’t happen unless we act to reduce rising inequality that condemns millions of vulnerable women, men and children to lives that are much tougher and shorter than they could be.
“World leaders face an historic challenge. They know that wealth does not automatically trickle down, so to deliver these goals leaders need to challenge the vested interests that are widening the divide between the richest and those most in need.”
Poverty levels fell consistently between 1990 and 2010, a “historic success” welcomed by Oxfam. But come countries have made better progress than others.
If developing countries had better distributed the benefits of economic growth to allow the income of the poorest to grow faster than the average, poverty rates around the world could have been reduced by 5.6% in 2010.
Around 200 million people around the world could have been lifted out of extreme poverty if countries had evenly distributed wealth, says Oxfam.
Vanni added: “We’ve halved poverty in 15 years, but we could have done even better. If world leaders are now to keep their promise to end extreme poverty for good in the next 15 it’s essential that they tackle inequality.”
Oxfam is calling on world leaders to address the issue of corporate tax dodging, which costs developing countries millions of pounds a year, and use the money generated to invest in public hospitals and schools.