Economic inequality driving “populist” politics, UN says

The United Nations (UN) has blamed decades of economic inequality for a rise in so-called “populist” politics, the title often given to the strategies employed by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

14 Feb 2020| News

In its World Social Report 2020, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs pointed to four “megatrends” deepening the gap between rich and poor, including climate change, technological advancements, urbanisation and immigration.

The report also highlighted the role of trade unions in maintaining fair wage levels, noting that union members take home a higher than average salary compared with their non-unionised peers – especially in low-paid sectors – and that the rise of non-traditional or insecure work has made it more difficult for unions to protect workers and their livelihoods.

”Considering the ongoing changes in the world of work, unions will also have to find ways to connect with workers outside traditional workspaces, advocate for new forms of decent employment that ensure worker protection and offer new services, such as the sharing of information about portable benefits,” the report advised.

Overall, the UN warned that economic inequality is growing across most countries and that it is more difficult for highly unequal countries to tackle issues like poverty. Politically, nations with a wider gap between rich and poor tend to get stuck in a rut, with wealthy people consistently taking power and representing their own interests.

Noting the vulnerability of the poorest to being left behind as the Earth warms, automation increases and international as well as rural-to-urban migration rises, the report stated that the outcomes of these challenges are “not predetermined” and that with careful policymaking, these they can be turned into opportunities.

”Some countries have managed to protect the most vulnerable from the negative impacts of these trends while ensuring that their benefits are broadly shared,” it said.

”Despite constraints, there is still ample scope for independent national policymaking to help harness these global forces for the good. Policies can and should rectify trends that are neither socially, environmentally or politically sound nor morally acceptable.”