Social & Economic Inequalities

Photo by :   Pavel Neznanov (Unsplash)


Collectivism — not individualism — is the path to reducing social and economic inequality

Last month, two large demonstrations took place in Ontario: the Rolling Thunder biker rally in Ottawa and a series of rallies across Ontario organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour.

While both aimed to appeal to the frustration and anxiety of the average working person during this period of turbulence and uncertainty, the demonstrations couldn’t have been more different.

The bike rally emphasized individual freedom over all else, arguing that social obligations, like wearing masks to protect vulnerable people from disease, restricted freedom to an unreasonable extent. The labour rallies, in contrast, called for collective action and better government standards.

The appeal of individualism

The Rolling Thunder biker rally took up where the so-called freedom convoy left off. It appealed to people’s rage and frustration and directed these emotions toward pandemic protections, and the experts and politicians who put them in place. Catharsis and disparagement were the dominant tone and few coherent goals for change were expressed.

There is much to be genuinely angry and scared about. Pandemic lockdowns, and the economic and social disruption they bring, are frustrating. There is still ongoing colonialism, systemic racism and sexism. Climate change is widespread and only getting worse. Wealth inequality is ever-growing. Young people can’t afford homes. Jobs provide less stability.

These challenges feel truly daunting. It’s not surprising that some have turned to individualistic solutions for broader social problems. Over 40 years of government policy has explicitly undermined the generosity and effectiveness of public services and our collective commitment to the common good.

We’ve been hammered with the message that there is no alternative to individual striving, and many have lost hope that something better is possible. But another way is possible, and we can look to the labour rallies as inspiration.

Collectivism is the way forward

Instead of succumbing to toxic individualism in the face of profound anger and grief, the labour protesters rallied around a clear, hopeful set of goals — a plan to improve workers’ rights and repair the deep inequalities both highlighted and deepened by the pandemic.

Among other things, the labour federation’s Workers First Agenda calls for a $20 minimum wage, affordable housing and permanent paid sick days.

This alternate path of solidarity means joining with others to provide mutual support on the premise that small individual sacrifices result in bigger collective gains that make everyone better off.

Collectivism means engaging in the difficult work of negotiating for our collective needs, which is a more complex task than simply tearing things down. It means providing people with hope, even if the answers aren’t simple.

Signs of hope in new organizing

For decades, unions in Canada have been in a holding pattern. As Statistics Canada reported recently, while the overall percentage of workers in unions has remained fairly stable at about 30 per cent since the 1990s, private sector union membership has declined significantly and now stands at 15.3 per cent.

Despite some important exceptions, most unions have not had great success with new organizing. Many have struggled to make significant progress in collective bargaining. Part of what’s needed to increase union bargaining success is building more critical mass in the private sector.

Our neighbour to the south shows us what an economy with few unions looks like. In the U.S., the percentage of workers in unions has collapsed since the 1960s, while the gap between rich and poor and a host of related social, political and economic ills have expanded.

However, there is renewed interest in union organizing. Major efforts are underway at notoriously anti-union companies like Amazon, Starbucks and now Apple.

As of this writing, 100 Starbucks locations have won certification and many more are in the middle of union drives. The historic victory of Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island in early April has inspired many, although workers at a second nearby Amazon location voted against unionizing on April 25.

Union efforts are also underway at Amazon locations in Alberta, Ontario and Québec, but none have succeeded yet. A Starbucks successfully unionized in Victoria, B.C., in August 2020. More breakthroughs could reignite hope for many private sector workers in Canada.

The new face of labour

Amid all this, a new generation of labour leaders are coming to the forefront in Canada. The Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council are all headed by women, reflecting the fact that 53 per cent of union members are now women.

More women and racialized people now lead central labour bodies’ executives: large unions like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario are headed by Black women. For the first time, a woman is running for president of UNIFOR, the country’s largest private sector union.

Research shows that, when union leadership reflects the demographics of its workers, membership engagement and organizing success improve. Workers believe their interests will be better met by leaders who understand and relate to their experiences. These lessons are important if Canadian unions are to connect with workers seeking better lives.

Beyond this, workers are aware that union leaders must be able to meet the urgent calls to address the ongoing systemic racism and discrimination in schools, workplaces, unions and beyond. As community and labour researcher Maya Bhullar notes, structural injustices are often normalized in collective bargaining agreements, grievance-handling and other union processes.

In order to address these issues, union directives must reflect the needs of the racially and gender diverse communities they serve, and leaders who understand and relate to these experiences are the best ones for the job.


By   :      Peggy Nash (Senior Advisor to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts + Labour Management Relations, Toronto Metropolitan                                     University)

              Stephanie Ross  (Associate Professor and Director, School of Labour Studies, McMaster University)

Date :     June 6, 2022

Source:  The Conversation


Fighting inequalities in times of pandemic: Therole of politicized identities and interdependentself-construal in coping with economic threat


During the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions encouraged social isolation and non-interaction with other people to prevent contagion. Still, the response to an impending economic crisis must be through the collective organization. In this set of pre-registered studies, we analyse two possible mechanisms of coping with collective economic threats: shared social identity and interdependent self-construction. We conducted three correlational studies during the pandemic in May–October 2020 (Study 1, N = 363; Study 2, N = 250; Study 3, N = 416). Results show that shared identity at two levels of politicization (i.e., working-class and 99% identities) and interdependent self-construal mediated the relationship between collective economic threat, intolerance towards economic inequality and collective actions to reduce it. The results highlight that the collective economic threat can reinforce the sense of community—either through the activation of a politicized collective identity, such as the working class or the 99% or through the activation of an interdependent self—which in turn can trigger greater involvement in the fight against economic inequality. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

The effects of pandemics are not limited to health; they also influence the world economy and cause an exacerbation of inequalities (Adams-Prassl, Boneva, Golin, & Rauh, 2020; Aspachs et al., 2021). For example, while the wealth of American billionaires has increased by 39%, lower classes, Latino and Black people, as well as transgender people have become increasingly vulnerable (, 2021). This situation is a severe injustice that infringes the rights of the most vulnerable ones limiting their access to basic resources (Oxfam, 2022). Challenging this injustice mutual aid groups emerged in many countries around the world aiming to protect the community (Ntontis et al., 2021; Stevenson, Wakefield, Felsner, Drury, & Costa, 2021). People tend to come together when facing a crisis (Bukowski, de Lemus, Rodríguez-Bailón, Willis, & Alburquerque, 2019; Fritsche et al., 2017; Hawdon & Ryan, 2011). Also, the perception of share grievances or perceived injustice can lead people to challenge it via protests (van Stekelenburg & Klandermans, 2013; van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008). As such, a common fate is crucial for both; the emergence of shared identities (Drury, Brown, González, & Miranda, 2016; Simon & Klandermans, 2001), and the development of a more interdependent self-construal (Oishi & Komiya, 2017) to react to shared injustice (Drury & Reicher, 2000).

The aim of the current work was to analyse whether the collective economic threat linked to COVID-19 is related to social identities and self-construction which, in turn, could predict intolerance towards economic inequality and collective actions against it. Specifically, we proposed that economic collective threat might be associated with economic inequality intolerance and actions to challenge it because it is positively related to politicized collective identities (Simon & Klandermans, 2001; van Zomeren et al., 2008) (classical-working class identity-and emergent −99% identity-) and interdependent self-construal (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Sánchez-Rodríguez, Willis, Jetten, & Rodríguez-Bailón, 2019).

For the complete journal article, please click on the following link:


By          :       Ángel del Fresno-Díaz,Lucía Estevan-Reina,Ángel Sánchez-Rodríguez,Guillermo B. Willis,Soledad de Lemus

Date      :       June 13, 2022 (First Published) 

Source  :        Wiley Online Library 


The young, rich, anti-capitalist capitalists

“I sometimes joke that there are way more socialists who need a financial adviser than there are socialist financial advisers.”

Andrea Pien is a 35-year-old millionaire. A wealth manager once warned her to carefully steward her money, saying that inherited wealth was often squandered away in just a few generations. “But my partner and I aren’t planning on having children,” Pien said. “What are we hoarding money for? Especially when the world is literally burning.”

So in March 2020, Pien hired Phuong Luong, founder of financial planning firm Just Wealth, to help her redistribute some of her wealth back to society. That means taking some of it out of Wall Street and investing it in ventures that promote human well-being and economic fairness over profits.

Pien is one of a small but growing number of wealthy people seeking a more radical approach to investing. Some call it the seemingly contradictory term “anti-capitalist” investing; others refer to it as “transformative investing.” In general, proponents are going beyond merely disincentivizing unethical behavior in companies. They’re trying to shift more of the balance of financial power into the hands of the working class, transforming an economic system that they believe has unjustly given just a few people control over a majority of the capital. Some investors want to spend down all of their wealth through anti-capitalist investing, while others still want to get a return on their investments but make sure these investments are into ventures they feel promote social justice.

Financial professionals in the space say they’ve seen rising interest in this kind of investing strategy in recent years, and they attribute some of the interest to social justice becoming a bigger priority in the aftermath of the 2020 racial justice reckoning and a deeply unequal pandemic that killed so many Black and brown working-class people.

Another factor fueling this small shift: A lot of money is changing hands in the US right now. Over the next 25 years, American baby boomers will pass on some $68 trillion to their children. It will be the biggest wealth transfer in US history, but the money won’t be handed out evenly. Even more wealth will get concentrated at the top.

Kate Barron-Alicante, a financial adviser and director of impact at wealth management firm Abacus Wealth Partners, who helps some clients with transformative investing, told Recode, “What I’m seeing are more people who are on the other side of that wealth transfer who want to do it differently,” she said.

“I sometimes joke that there are way more socialists who need a financial adviser than there are socialist financial advisers,” said Zach Teutsch, a financial adviser and founder of Values Added Financial, a financial advisory firm for progressives. “People are really yearning for this. They want an adviser who shares their disdain for a US economy that’s dominated by obscenely wealthy multi-billionaires.”

The yearning is there, but an important question to ask early on is how much of an impact anti-capitalist or transformative investing will have.

Attempts to invest ethically aren’t exactly new. The concept of socially responsible investing dates back centuries, and today there are a variety of approaches that fall under this umbrella. In recent years, they’ve attracted increased skepticism about their efficacy and ethics. The positive impact socially responsible investing strategies claim to have is often hard to measure, and there isn’t a single rigorous definition for what “socially responsible” means — what’s ethical to one person might be unforgivable to another.

“There’s been a huge amount of interest, but also a huge amount of competition and marketing dollars spent by those larger investment firms that are basically looking to make a quick buck,” said Sonia Kowal, president of Zevin Asset Management, an investment management firm that focuses on socially responsible investing. “There’s a lot of impact washing going on.”

Because it’s a relatively new idea, anti-capitalist investing doesn’t yet have a clear-cut definition. Anti-capitalist investments and efforts fall across a spectrum, and not everyone would use the term “anti-capitalist” to refer to them. As Pien told Recode, “I wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as anti-capitalist because I still participate in this economy. … But I would like a world that’s different from the current capitalist system that we have.”

Making up part of this spectrum is “transformative investing,” whose goal is to transform the “extractive economy” — meaning the system we have now, where finite resources are extracted and only a few people are rewarded with profits — into a “regenerative economy” where capital is spread more equitably and controlled more democratically. It’s a concept popularized by Resource Generation, a social justice organization whose members are wealthy young Americans who have made a commitment to redistributing all or most of their money.

Operating at the more radical end of the anti-capitalist investment spectrum is a firm like Chordata Capital, which offers an explicitly anti-capitalist approach to wealth management. Some of Chordata’s clients don’t want any return on their investments, and they might work on a plan to spend down their wealth over a period of 20 years.

“Sometimes when we use that language, [anti-capitalist investing], people say it’s a paradox. I think that comes from a place of people believing that there’s no real alternative to capitalism,” said Kate Poole, who leads Chordata with co-founder Tiffany Brown.

Poole advises clients on making investments into worker cooperatives, which are businesses that are owned by workers whose profits are shared among them, or community-controlled loan funds, like the one run by the Boston Ujima Project, which gives working-class members a vote on which participating businesses in their community should get funding.


However, the financial services industry currently isn’t built for transformative investing. The general principle of investing is to minimize risk and maximize profit by holding different kinds of assets instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s more difficult to maintain asset diversity when you’re avoiding all publicly traded stocks. Financial advisers are also required by law to manage their clients’ investments through custodians, which are often large banks, that safekeep assets. “Many of these firms don’t custody investments outside of Wall Street,” said Luong. That means investing into a small, community-based business requires investment advisers to do more research and paperwork than when you’re investing in traditional investment vehicles that include many publicly traded companies.


It can also be a challenge to find worthy non-Wall Street options that align with transitioning to a regenerative, more equal economy. Kelly Cahill, a 34-year-old Resource Generation member, told Recode, “I liked the idea of moving my money to community-based investments instead of the stock market, but ... where do I put it?” While an increasing number of retirement funds — which are the most common way that most Americans hold stocks — are offering socially responsible investment options, unless you can hire a financial adviser, it’s unlikely you’ll have the knowledge and access to do community-based investing.

Cahill, who received a significant settlement due to an accident, initially followed common financial advice and put half of her money into the stock market. “I ignored it for a year,” she recalled. “And then when I finally did look at it, I was just blown away by how much it grew in that time.” She realized she didn’t need all of it, so she joined Resource Generation and found a financial adviser who could help her redistribute a third of it into community-based investments.

Resource Generation offers a database of financial professionals and firms qualified to help people with transformative investing. For now, the list is still small, with fewer than 30 investment firms able to provide at least some off-Wall Street investment options and transformative investing support. But Nadav David, an organizer at Resource Generation who helped create the database, told Recode there’s been an uptick in interest.

“Within the last several years, I’ve definitely seen much more conversation about actually fully divesting from Wall Street and from public markets, and more in communities,” he said. Meanwhile, Resource Generation’s membership has grown. According to the organization, at the end of 2019, it had 702 members; by the end of 2021, it had 1,155.

“We’re interested in ending inheritance as we know it, and being the last generation of people to be able to accumulate wealth in this way,” David said.

As transformative investing grows, even if it remains a niche part of the financial market, emphasizing how it’s different from other kinds of ethical investing will become even more important, especially if it wants to avoid the haziness that surrounds socially responsible investing. As of now, the latter is vastly more popular. In 2020, almost 36 percent of professionally managed assets globally were classified as socially responsible investments. Within this category, environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) integration was the most popular strategy — a little over $25 trillion in assets used ESG integration in 2020. This includes factoring in a company’s carbon footprint or how well it treats employees when calculating the risk or return on an investment, because such factors could impact the financial performance of the business. ESG doesn’t necessarily prioritize social values over financial performance.

n comparison, only $352 billion went toward impact or community investing. Still, that $352 billion is a 42 percent increase since 2016. It speaks to the growing appetite for alternative investment strategies beyond the surface-level impact washing often associated with ESG investing.

While no one seems to be under the illusion that radical investing alone will solve the problem of wealth inequality, the emergence of this trend suggests that the next several decades may be transformative for the financial services industry. For a small number of wealthy young Americans coming into inheritances, it isn’t enough to donate to a few charitable causes — one of the loudest critiques of big philanthropy is that it lacks transparency and is undemocratic. They’ve recognized a need to move beyond feeling guilty about their own privilege and the profound inequality that exists in the world. They’re attempting to alter the power imbalance in the relationship they have with others, and feel as though they’re part of a community that’s not just connected by wealth.

Pien recalls her late father’s advice on how to manage money. “He said, ‘Listen, Andrea, I know you like to redistribute money, but know that you need to have at least $13 million to be absolutely secure,’ which I thought was absurd,” she said. “Part of why I want to participate in this movement of redistribution is that my dad worked really, really hard — and was really isolated. He didn’t have a lot of close friends.”

“I want the future to look like everyone having a little bit more than enough,” Pien continued. “Everyone being able to feel affirmed in their identities and feel connected to their communities around them — not isolated.”


By      :             Whizy Kim

Date  :              May 31, 2022

Source:            Vox


Opportunities to tackle structural racism and ethnicity-based discrimination in recovering and rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic 

The impact of COVID-19 has been disproportionately felt by populations experiencing structural racial- and ethnicity-based discrimination. Here, we describe opportunities for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts to help build more equal and resilient societies, through investments in: (i) interventions focused on explicitly addressing racial and ethnicity-based discrimination; (ii) interventions supporting the delivery of universal services, and in ways that address compounding and intersecting drivers of exclusion and marginalization; and (iii) cross-cutting enabling measures, such as participatory mechanisms and data disaggregation.

More than two years since the first SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported, the COVID-19 pandemic remains an acute global emergency1. While many countries have successfully vaccinated significant portions of their populations, stark global inequities remain with imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines2,3, and potential new variants could further threaten the ability of governments to recover from the inter-connected health, economic, and broader human rights crises. Within countries, the impact of COVID-19 has been disproportionately felt by populations experiencing structural racial- and ethnicity-based discrimination. Indeed, where disaggregated epidemiologic data are available, COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates are often significantly higher among people of African descent, indigenous peoples, and ethnic groups or other minoritized groups experiencing discrimination4,5,6. This reflects what social epidemiologists have long recognized: disease distribution is patterned by structures of disadvantage, inequality, marginalization and discrimination that often have historical roots and still have present-day manifestations7. Importantly, “race” is purely a social construct that has no biological basis, and documented racial inequities are due to racism not genetics or biology.

Ethnicity-based and racial discrimination intersects with other forms of exclusion based on income, occupation, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion or belief, language, migratory status, rural/urban status and more, and is unlikely to exist in only one sector. Beyond health inequities, COVID-19 racial and ethnicity-based inequities have been documented across employment, education, housing and food insecurity, among other domains8. There are different pathways – from differential exposure, to inequitable access to health services, to uneven socioeconomic impacts of control measures, that can be further studied to inform policymaking, planning and programming9. Yet, these unequal impacts and human rights violations are not inevitable; neither is a spike in xenophobia and hate speech10.

As countries work to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and address both health challenges and broader socio-economic impacts, attention must be given to tackling racial and ethnic discrimination. With this in mind, and consistent with the UN Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights11, members of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group released a report on opportunities to address racial- and ethnicity-based discrimination12.

The report was developed through a consultative process that began in late 2020 through early 2021, involving UN senior executives and technical staff, civil society, public health practitioners and human rights experts. It identified three strategic approaches to addressing racial and ethnicity-based discrimination in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. These are: (i) interventions explicitly tackling racial and ethnicity-based discrimination, including improving anti-discrimination and redress mechanisms; (ii) interventions supporting the delivery of universal services, but in ways that address compounding and intersecting drivers of social exclusion and draw on the framework of proportionate universalism13; and (iii) investments in cross-cutting enabling measures, such as participatory mechanisms and data disaggregation (see Table 1 which is replicated from the report).

While not exhaustive and recognizing that entry-points would need to be tailored to national circumstances and developed in consultation with impacted communities, these mutually reinforcing entry-points together offer a framework to address discrimination directly through targeted measures, and indirectly through universal measures that will have amplified impacts on disadvantaged populations. This framework is currently being used in a capacity-building programme for United Nations Country Teams to support national policies and programmes that result in more just, equal and resilient societies. To date, thirteen UN Country Teams have participated in the programme and a training-of-trainers is planned for late 2022 to reach more, under the umbrella of the UN Network on addressing Racial Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities.

To read the complete article, you can visit the website by clicking on the following link:


Linos, N., Bassett, M.T., Salemi, A. et al. Opportunities to tackle structural racism and ethnicity-based discrimination in recovering and rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nat Commun 13, 3277 (2022).

Received : 14 September 2021

Accepted : 18 May 2022

Published : 14 June 2022 


Making Childcare Work for Both Mothers and Our Climate

As if caring in times of economic crisis weren’t enough, mothers must now consider the climate crisis too as they care for their families and communities.

Elba, a 43-year-old mixed race mother, works as a personal support worker, caring after people with major cognitive issues in the Portland, Oregon area.

“It’s a hard job but I feel good about it, taking care of them,” Elba told me in 2019. “But it pays very little.”

Elba is not alone in earning poverty wages for critical care work. A 2022 study revealed that 40 percent of all working women in the U.S. make less than $15 an hour, and many of those wage-poor women are mothers.

In late 2019, Elba helped her 22-year-old daughter, also a single mom, who worked part-time as a food server while attending community college. Elba juggled her work hours around her 10-year-old son’s school days, her daughter’s job and college classes, and her 2-year-old granddaughter’s hours of state subsidized daycare. She and her daughter tag-teamed, alternating shifts, education, and care work, passing children back and forth.

Then, the global Covid-19 pandemic upended their fragile rhythm.

Headlines throughout 2020 announced the startling news that women were hit the hardest by the pandemic and left the labor force at historic rates. Low wage women, many of them women of color, were hit hardest of all. By 2021, even as the economy began to slowly recover, unemployment rates among Black women and Latinas were nearly double that of white women, with unemployment rates at 8.9 percent and 8.5 percent respectively.

While Elba’s story may not be as eye-catching as the millions of professional mothers who left labor force when the Covid-19 pandemic down childcare and schools, the disruptions in care that grabbed headlines during the pandemic have always served as a constant stressor for the low-income families that raised 38 percent of the nation’s children in 2019, and that number is likely to be even higher now when accounting for the pandemic job losses.

Low-income mothers know all about care in times of crisis. These women work jobs with unpredictable schedules that ignore traditional childcare hours, and access to that crucial public childcare is completely dependent upon employment. At any moment their employers may schedule them for additional hours, which could suddenly and temporarily place them above the income eligibility line.  And once affordable childcare is gone, low-income mothers are forced to drop out of the workforce, which in-turn results in a loss of income and makes these families susceptible to eviction, and the cycle continues.

But if caring in times of economic crisis weren’t enough, mothers and policy makers will soon need to consider climate crisis and how it will impact care.

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, for example, researchers explored how gender figured into that catastrophic event. They noted that, in the face of floods and fires, women are more likely to be slowed down by caring for children in times of evacuation. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that in the aftermath of Katrina, two-thirds of New Orleans’ child care facilities remained closed two years after the storm leaving mothers and other care givers to cope on their own. While labor traditionally performed by men is far more visible – repairing housing, building new levees, and redesigning greenspace – behind the public scene mothers are repairing people.

Elaine Enarson , a disaster sociologist, notes that crisis demands on women are “exceptional and exceptionally invisible.” Elba would agree as she struggles to stabilize her family more than two years after the pandemic. In the aftermath of catastrophe – whether a catastrophic climate event or global pandemic – she and other low-income mothers are tasked with getting their children settled back in school, stabilizing elderly kin, and rebuilding vital social networks, all without the resources wealthier people use to buy their way out of hardship.

Escaping crises is a collective marathon low-income mothers are overwhelmingly burdened by, and unfortunately, that burden doesn’t go away after the storm passes. In the years after Katrina, widespread wildfires, heat domes, and epidemics in the years that followed have only underscored the need for childcare that is accessible to all.  As climate change and new pandemics guarantee future upheavals in care, investing in childcare for all of the nation’s children, is as essential as supporting renewable energies, green jobs and systems of emergency response.


Lisa Dodson is a Research Professor of Sociology, Emerita, at Boston College and the co-author of the forthcoming book: "Getting Me Cheap: How Low-wage Work Traps Women and Girls in Poverty."


By      :         Lisa Dodson

Date  :          May 4, 2022