October 2019


  1. The Social Impact of Economic Inequality
  2. If politicians are serious about tackling inequality they need to properly overhaul the tax system – here’s how
  3. It's time to tax for gender justice
  4. How did the Brazilian economy help to elect Bolsonaro?
  5. Behind SA’s brutality
  6. ‘Unprecedented’ Rise In Infant Mortality In England Linked to Poverty

The Social Impact of Economic Inequality


Increasing economic inequality is a defining challenge of our time. In recent years, it has triggered analysis and reflection by many scholars, politicians and others on its causes and consequences on economic growth and efficiency, politics and democracy, human rights, individual behaviors, access to health, social cohesion and environmental degradation. The perception that the top 1% of income earners are gaining at the expense of the other 99% has resulted in widespread public debates in many countries on the social and political repercussions of inequality.

Inequalities in income and wealth are often blamed for the deepening anxieties of the middle class in many developed economies. Market power among business elites and multinational companies – in pursuit of higher profits – are one of the key drivers to inequality as access to resources remain in the hands of powerful business groups, and not in the hands of the people and their elected representatives. Serious doubts are therefore raised on the claims that globalization, technological developments and the “invisible hand” of capitalism and economic liberalism have liberated humans from disease, poverty and inequality.

It has long been assumed that GDP growth would address income inequality and lift people out of poverty. But economic growth can often be disproportionate and unequal, adversely affecting marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society. If economic growth does not lead to an equitable spread of its benefits, most citizens specifically the collar workers, the hard-working middle class and rural dwellers will not enjoy commensurate improvements of their living standards. In many countries, this has contributed to the rise of a crisis of legitimacy of governments and a crisis of democracy that has facilitated the surge of populism as well as the return of exclusionary forms of nationalism.

However, with the global financial and economic crisis that swept the world in 2007-2008, inequality has risen in all world regions. 1 In response to the adverse impact of the crisis, governments worldwide introduced fiscal austerity programs to reduce public at the expense of ballooning levels of sovereign debt that strangle economic growth. As highlighted in the latest report of the UN’s “World Social Situation” 2, popular dissent is increasing while trust in governments is plummeting “as people believe they are bearing the brunt of crises for which they have no responsibility and feel increasingly disenfranchised.” It is estimated that national governments have spent an astonishing USD 117 trillion to save the financial system and to bail out banks that were on the brink of bankruptcy but precious little to support the youth. No surprise that people took to the streets in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus to protest against draconian austerity measures imposed by governments to cover up for the failures of the banks and the financial system.

In this regard, it is foreseen that the adverse impact of austerity measures could further impact socio-economic living conditions in Europe; Oxfam estimates that an additional 15-25 million people in Europe could live in poverty by 2025. Professor Stiglitz has likewise suggested that “austerity has only crippled Europe’s growth, with improvements in fiscal positions that are always disappointing. Worse, it is contributing to inequality that will make economic weakness longer-lived, and needlessly contributes to the suffering of the jobless and the poor for many years.”

It is evident that economic inequality has had adverse economic, social and political impacts for social stability and cohesion, political participation, poverty reduction, as well as the enjoyment of human rights. In addition, economic inequalities impede the enjoyment of social, cultural and economic rights, thus contributing to persistent socio-economic disadvantages among social groups. As states are in need of fiscal stability to secure the provision of welfare benefits and redistributive fiscal policies to maintain social security, the dwindling of public resources impedes their ability to deliver basic public services. For instance, in the case of Greece, more than two million people – equivalent to 20% of the population – did not have access to adequate health insurance as underlined by former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Professor Alfred de Zayas. Tackling global income and wealth inequality therefore requires important shifts in addressing its root causes

In the outcome document of the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development entitled “The Future We Want,” decision-makers committed themselves to achieve sustainable development by promoting “sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth”, creating greater opportunities for all social segments of society so as to reduce inequalities. Social inclusion was likewise a key outcome. In this connection, it was emphasized that “sustainable development must be inclusive and people-centred and recognized that broad public participation was essential to promoting sustainable development goals.” Appropriate measures to address the rise of economic inequality could include resource mobilization for social investment, distribution of income and wealth through targeted social transfers, progressive income taxation as well as the extension of social protection and decent work standards.

Governments are therefore required to address income and wealth inequality, and to prevent its further deterioration. They must build on a human rights and a people-centered approach that enables states to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights on a non-discriminatory and equal basis – among its citizens – in line with the provisions set forth in the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda.


1 “Across the OECD, since 1985 the Gini has increased in 17 of 22 countries (…),” according to Professor Stiglitz (see page 5 of his book entitled “The price of inequality: How today’s divided society endangers our future.”)

2 United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs, “Inequality matters: Report on the World Social Situation.“ Pages 22-23. New York, 2013. Accessed 14 January 2019. PDF.


Blerim Mustafa, Project and communications officer, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue. Postgraduate researcher (Ph.D. candidate) at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester (UK).


By                    :               Blerim Mustafa

Date                 :               September 23, 2019

Source             :               Inter Press Service News Agency




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If politicians are serious about tackling inequality they need to properly overhaul the tax system – here’s how


Inequality has shot to the top of the agenda across the political spectrum. Politicians, activists, and even billionaires increasingly call for more radical measures to tackle the problem.

Britain’s Conservative government proclaimed the end to austerity in its September spending review. Its party conference also discussed providing more equal access to education and social services, along with plans to increase the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Labour party vouched to raise taxes on corporate profits, incomes of the richest earners, and transactions in the financial sector. At its recent party conference, it announced an expansive programme of free public services.

Until recently, the opposite kind of measures were a priority. Lowering taxes for both business and the wealthy, and rolling back public spending in favour of free market competition were seen as a lasting legacy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Some argue that inequality is necessary to give people incentives to compete and innovate, ultimately making the economic pie bigger for everyone. Thatcher halved the tax rate on highest incomes in the UK from 80% to 40%, where it has hovered since. And public spending as a proportion of UK GDP fell from nearly 50% in the mid-1970s to less than 40% in the early 2000s.

But at the same time inequality levels have become untenable. In the UK, the richest 1% owned 20% of all personal wealth in 2012 and earned nearly 12% of pre-tax national income in 2016. The numbers are even higher in the US, and are also increasing globally, including in India and China.

Average economic growth may be ticking upwards but there are too many visible disparities in societies where record levels of homelessness co-exist with a high and rising number of empty homes.


Addressing the problem

More information on the scale of inequality – and its consequences – has put pressure on politicians to address the problem. In fact, elements of both the Labour and Conservative parties’ proposals are needed. Complementing tax increases with higher public spending has more potential to successfully reduce inequality in the long-run than either of these policies alone.

Advocates of higher taxes note that resources accumulated by the rich are largely saved and invested in personal assets such as luxury houses or yachts rather than reinvested in innovation and jobs. Similarly, an increasing portion of corporate profits is not spent on production: productive investment has withered despite corporations building up record cash reserves.

The poorest earners bear a greater tax burden than the rich. So there is merit – and scope – to increase rates on the highest earners to redistribute economic resources more fairly.


Taxing wealth not income

But this is only part of the solution. Many economists, inspired by Thomas Piketty’s seminal work Capital, argue for explicit taxes on wealth. As the billionaire Bill Gates has pointed out, most resources of the rich are contained in their assets rather than in their income streams, and so taxing wealth directly would be more effective in curbing inequality.

It is also vital to tighten the screws on the way transfers of wealth are taxed. For instance, inheritance taxes are in desperate need of reform, as they currently raise notoriously low amounts of revenue.

Another proposal for taxing wealth transfers targets the financial sector. Short-term speculative trading between financial institutions was responsible for triggering the 2007-08 financial crisis. Taxing financial transactions could reduce the instability that results from risky financial activity by increasing the costs of speculation. This kind of tax could also lower inequality by making risky financial instruments less desirable and decreasing the potential gains available to financial elites.


Preventing inequality from the get-go

Tax reform is much needed. But even with strong political will, taxes tend to be avoided and evaded through legal and illegal means respectively. A more comprehensive strategy is required, focused on “predistribution” – this means preventing inequalities from developing in the first place.

Current proposals for predistribution policies rightly target housing – one of the biggest financial concerns for people. Home ownership gives a boost to household wealth, but it may also make it more unstable if backed by large mortgage debt.

The 2007-08 crisis showed the pitfalls of relying on private markets to supply housing, with many families experiencing big losses as house prices plummeted. Even programmes such as Help to Buy – which makes it cheaper for first-time buyers to put down a deposit on a home – relies on private developers to supply housing and has been widely criticised for fuelling inequality.

In a recent paper, I found that people do not benefit equally from holding assets such as housing supplied by private providers. Women, people of colour, millennials and low-income families experience lower improvements in their financial well-being from holding wealth compared to others. This is because they are more financially vulnerable and their access to wealth, as well as the way that the value of this wealth changes over time, is not just down to individual decisions but is largely influenced by economic policy and the way in which financial markets operate. So a careful strategy of public provision of key assets is needed to support more vulnerable people and reduce inequality.

Politicians have started to notice the importance of these types of policies. The Labour party has committed to build a million new homes and regulate the private rental market if elected. In the US, Bernie Sanders, a 2020 US presidential election hopeful, is promising “housing for all”, and similar initiatives have been mentioned by other candidates.

One initiative alone won’t fix inequality – a large overhaul is needed. A successful strategy should be comprehensive, complementing tax reform with predistribution policies. There are many potential difficulties to consider, but with political will in place, the time is ripe for systemic change.


By                    :               Hanna Szymborska (Lecturer in Economics, The Open University)

Date                 :               October 2, 2019

Source             :               The Conversation




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It's time to tax for gender justice


Unfair tax systems hit women and girls the hardest. We need to make corporations pay their share.


This article is part of the 'Advancing gender just economies' series, presented by ourEconomy, ActionAid, FEMNET, Womankind Worldwide and Fight Inequality Alliance.


Last week, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (FFD). FFD is the process supporting the financing of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made up of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other UN development and human rights frameworks and conventions including Beijing Platform for Action. This is the first high-level dialogue since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in 2015, where feminists, women’s rights organisations and civil society campaigned for an inclusive intergovernmental body within the United Nations to reform international tax rules to finance public services and to realize gender equality.

Why do these financing decisions matter to gender equality and women’s rights? With close to a decade remaining for the curtains to fall on Agenda 2030, this is where states show if they are putting their money where their mouth is and decide where the money for the SDGs is coming from and what actions will be prioritized. Women’s voices go largely unheard in the policy debates dominated by global capital. While States accommodate corporate demands for tax incentives, the needs of women and demands to tax corporations fairly are neglected. Women face challenges due to inadequate financing for and provision of public services, as regressive tax policies and underfunded public services perpetuate women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work.

In Agenda 2030 world leaders committed to recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and tackling inequalities. Where the money comes from to make this a reality and what areas are prioritised are quite telling. For example, UN Women estimated that National Action Plans for Gender Equality had funding gaps of up to 90% in 2017. Tax is a gendered issue, meaning unfair tax systems threaten the realisation of women’s human rights and Agenda 2030. They further contribute to increasing levels of gendered socio-economic inequality—exacerbated by the global fiscal austerity trend. Progressive tax revenue through domestic resource mobilisation is critical to addressing structural and systematic global inequalities and making it possible for countries achieve women’s human rights.


From tax avoidance to tax and development justice

The High-level dialogue includes prime ministers, finance ministers, high ranking representatives of international finance institutions, private sector and a few civil society ‘experts’, and aims “to renew global commitment to financing at the highest political level.” It further aims to “encourage public and private investment to align with the 2030 Agenda, and promote new and innovative initiatives that target gaps in financing sustainable development.” Yet, in spite of ‘combatting illicit financial flows’ (IFFs) being on the agenda, the private sector is seen to play a big role in addressing this financing ‘gap’, rather than as a source of progressive tax income.

Current rigged economic structures and systems allow corporates to dodge taxes, shifting income to tax havens and contributing significantly to the vast levels of IFFs leaving developing countries. These illicit financial flows allow multinational corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share in tax. More than 65 percent of IFFs are proceeds from commercial activities, with countries missing out on at least USD600 billion in public revenue annually and an estimated USD20-30 trillion sitting in tax havens. Africa loses 5.5% of GDP to IFFs, which is larger than the total of foreign direct investment and official development aid (ODA) combined.

Increasingly, states are favouring privatisation of essential services and infrastructure. The World Banks’ 2015 Maximizing Financing for Development agenda, ‘From billions to trillions’, is directing public tax payer funds through development banks to the private sector to deliver services, more so in low income countries. The current trend in privatisation and its impact on the right to essential services is well documented, including how it undermines women’s rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Tax is by far the most important revenue stream for developing countries, and is already dwarfing development aid in many contexts. In Africa in 2012, collected tax revenue was 10 times the amount of overseas aid received. Yet states could raise more to increase their budgets. In particular, it is critical for developing countries to raise taxes from Transnational Corporations (TNCS), as corporate income tax makes up 16 percent state revenue compared to just over eight percent in high income countries.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Agenda 2030 ‘commit governments to take the necessary measures to raise resources for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’. Not only is financing for gender equality vital in its own right, it is a missing piece to the realisation of SDG 5 on Gender Equality and the rest of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.


The impact of tax policies on women’s human rights

Despite these commitments, austerity measures pushed by international financial institutions (IFIs) have been implemented around the world. Policies include changes to how taxes are collected, privatising public goods, freezing public sector wages, reducing social security and reforming pension systems. Such austerity measures widely impact the enjoyment of social and economic human rights, particularly for women who are the most affected by all forms of tax injustice, the privatisation of public services and unemployment.

The current system based on a neoliberal vision of a small state and low taxes has evidently led to a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards, safety and environmental regulations, and tax rates, not to mention the current climate crisis. Combined with the failure of decision-makers and states, especially in the Global North, to create binding corporate accountability frameworks, there is widespread environmental pollution, social insecurity, land grabbing and forced displacement, but also illicit financial flows and tax abuse. The impact of corporate impunity on women’s lives is well documented. Low tax collection by governments means there are fewer resources to spend on public services and social security. It is more likely to be women who fill the gap with their bodies and time. This especially affects the most vulnerable women.

Women subsidize the economy with their unpaid work, performing the majority (76.2 percent) of global unpaid care and domestic work, estimated at $10 trillion a year worldwide or 13 percent of global GDP. Women’s disproportionate unpaid care burden is a root cause and driver of gender inequality and has a profound impact on women’s ability to earn an income and realise the full spectrum of their human rights.


Making taxes work for women

We need a just distribution of resources for a fair global economy. Fiscal choices have gendered impacts. Consequently, states should ensure resources are used to promote redistribution and do not increase the burden on women. Resourcing feminist and women’s rights movements is also vital in supporting women’s rights. To increase the amount of revenue raised from wealthy individuals and corporations we need national and global tax reform. In order for states to fulfil their obligations they must introduce progressive taxation using maximum available resources to achieve women’s rights.

Global Alliance for Tax Justice* (GATJ), a growing movement of civil society organisations, activists and trade unions, states that ‘Tax policies and systems manifest and exacerbate the patriarchal and other discriminatory structures that disadvantage, marginalise and disempower women.’ It demand that states:


  • Meet international commitments to maximise available resources – notably through progressive and gender-just taxation.
  • Reform tax laws so that they do not discriminate against women and ensure tax and fiscal policies recognise and serve to represent, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work.
  • End harmful tax practices, illicit financial flows, and ensure that multinational corporations pay their share.
  • Support the establishment of an inclusive intergovernmental UN Global Tax Commission, where all countries have a seat at the table and equal say in determining international tax rules.

With 2019 being the 75th anniversary of the Bretton Woods Institutions, and the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and five years of progress made on the SDGs in 2020, this High-level Dialogue on FFD is an opportunity for states and the global community to address the barriers that prevent the economy working for all including all women and girls. Let’s hope they take it.

If you are interested to learn more about how tax justice can support women’s rights:


  • Sign the Global Alliance for Tax Justice Bogota Declaration on Tax Justice for Women's Rights and read 7 Reasons Why We Need #TaxJustice for Women’s Rights.
  • Read Womankind Worldwide’s Working towards a just feminist economy: The role of decent work, public services, progressive taxation and corporate accountability in achieving women’s rights.
  • Read about how a UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human rights can enable women’s rights in Women’s Rights Beyond the Business Case: Ensuring Corporate Accountability.


*The Global Alliance for Tax Justice is a growing movement of civil society organisations and activists, including trade unions, united in campaigning for greater transparency, democratic oversight and redistribution of wealth in national and global tax systems. We comprise the five regional networks of Africa, Latin America, Asia-Australia, North America and Europe, which collectively represent hundreds of organisations.


By                            :               Caroline Othim & Roosje Saalbrink

Date                         :               October 1, 2019

Source                     :               Open Democracy




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How did the Brazilian economy help to elect Bolsonaro?


Conventional wisdom sees economic anxiety as central to the rise of the far-right around the world, yet Brazil last year elected Jair Bolsonaro despite impressive results in terms of growth, poverty, and wage disparities in the 2000s. Essentially, the Rousseff years failed to address falling competitiveness in manufacturing, inflation in services, and a distributive conflict affecting those on middle incomes, while an increase in debt-to-GDP allowed the subsequent crisis to be blamed on fiscal profligacy. Cuts in public expenditures then combined with external factors to slow any recovery, and Bolsonaro found electoral success by linking economic stagnation to corruption amongst the entire political establishment. But Bolsonaro’s response has been disastrous, and its disappointing results could prove to be his undoing, writes Laura Carvalho (University of Sao Paulo).


Recent polling by IGM Chicago suggests that there is strong agreement amongst European economic experts that “rising inequality is straining the health of liberal democracy” and that “enacting more redistributive expenditures and policies would be likely to limit the rise of populism in Europe”. Indeed, from threats to democratic capitalism posed by the decline of the middle class in Branko Milanovic’s Global Inequality to the role of austerity in explaining support for Brexit in a recent empirical paper by Thiemo Fetzer, the topic has become increasingly important across various strands of economic literature.

When it comes to the specific role of globalisation, Dani Rodrik has tried to understand how different shocks give rise to left-wing (economic) populism or to right-wing (cultural) populism, depending on the particular societal cleavages highlighted by politicians. While trade liberalisation and immigration might set the stage for an emphasis on identity cleavages, as in Europe or the United States, financial liberalisation would tend to lay the ground for a focus on income cleavages, as in Southern Europe or Latin America.

But then we have Brazil, a commodity-exporting economy that benefited greatly from Chinese growth in the 2000s and earned widespread recognition for reducing poverty and wage disparities through redistributive policies. If we accept the conventional wisdom on the role of economic anxiety in the rise of the far-right, how are we to understand the election of Bolsonaro in 2018?


From boom to chaos: Brazil’s economic meltdown

Like many other Latin American economies, Brazil took advantage of the commodity-price boom of the 2000s to expand government spending in health, education, infrastructure, and social protection, yet it still managed to reduce its public debt-to-GDP ratio during Lula’s administrations. The higher growth rates of both consumption and investment between 2006 and 2010, which represented a rapid recovery from the Global Financial Crisis, were accompanied by strong job creation in the construction and service sectors, as well as by impressive wage gains for low-skilled workers.

The expansion of the cash transfer program Bolsa Família – from 3.6 million recipients in 2004 to 12.8 million in 2010 – and the rise in real minimum wages of 5.9 per cent per year during this period also helped to increase the meagre share of national income accruing to the bottom 50 per cent from 12.9 per cent in 2004 to 14.3 per cent in 2014.

But by the time Brazil reached its highest real GDP growth rate during that period – 7.5 per cent in 2010 – the economy was already facing difficult challenges.

First, the country’s manufacturing sector, which had been losing density since trade liberalisation in the 1990s, was losing additional competitiveness due to a strong currency appreciation and the higher penetration of Chinese imports after the Global Financial Crisis.

Second, higher wage growth was leading to an acceleration in services inflation, which meant high interest rates needed to be maintained in order to attract foreign capital, further appreciate the currency, and suppress inflation of tradable goods.

Third, a distributive conflict was becoming apparent, as the reduction of inequality was due to a fall in the share of income going to the middle of the distribution, with the bottom 50 per cent and the top one per cent experiencing the strongest gains.

When Dilma Rousseff took office in 2011, the plan was to address the lack of competitiveness in Brazilian manufacturing through a real depreciation of the exchange rate and various measures aimed at reducing the cost of production, including tax exemptions and controls on energy tariffs. As the external scenario deteriorated – with the end of the commodity-price boom and the European periphery crisis – this set of measures proved highly ineffective in boosting the country’s exports and preventing an economic slowdown.

Moreover, when combined with the slower growth of tax revenues caused by the economic slowdown, the high cost of these subsidies contributed to a deterioration of the fiscal stance. While public investment, which had grown 27.6 per cent per year in real terms during the boom period of 2006-2010, remained almost stagnant in 2011-2014 the increase in public debt relative to GDP in 2014 allowed for a dominant view to be built around the idea that the crisis was caused by the government’s fiscal profligacy.


Austerity, inequality, and Bolsonaro’s election

Since then, many of the same problems facing the Western world seem to have converged on Brazil, only starting with a far higher level of social vulnerability.

The economic agenda has focused almost exclusively on cutting public expenditures. With a sharp drop in oil prices – from $85 per barrel in late 2014 to $25 in early 2016 – hitting the balance sheet of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and the rest of the economy, the government reduced federal investment by more than 35 per cent in 2015. At the same time, the Central Bank raised interest rates in response to an inflation acceleration, which was mainly driven by a rapid adjustment in previously controlled energy tariffs and fuel prices.

After a real GDP contraction of 8.2 per cent in 2015-16, the Brazilian economy has been going through the slowest economic recovery in its history. And this despite all the beautiful promises about a boost in investor confidence following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the Congressional approval of a constitutional ten-year freeze on real federal spending. If the economy continues to grow at the same pace as it has since 2017, Brazil will only return to its pre-crisis real GDP level by 2025, more than ten years after the peak.

Last year’s presidential elections thus occurred in a context of mounting frustration and economic anxiety: unemployment had doubled – from 6.5 million people in 2014 to 13.2 million in 2017 – and inequality was rising twice as fast as it had fallen in the 2000s.

The Workers’ Party lost more votes between 2014 and 2018 among households with intermediate levels of income. These are precisely the groups that did not benefit so much from the boom but did suffer significant losses during the crisis, as has been argued by Amory Gethin and Marc Morgan.

To make matters worse, the crisis period coincided with the largest corruption investigation in Brazilian history (known as Lava Jato, or Operation Carwash), which facilitated the simplistic yet understandable perception amongst the general population that corruption itself was the cause of the economic meltdown. Rather than blaming immigrants or Chinese manufacturers, responsibility for the economic slowdown was attributed entirely to the political establishment and the left.

From this perspective, it becomes easier to understand how, in contrast to other far-right candidacies around the world, Bolsonaro was elected through the combination of his well-known morally conservative discourse and an ultra-liberal economic platform: getting rid of a corrupt state in all areas (except public security) was sold as a solution to all of the country’s problems.

What remains to be seen is whether the disastrous results of Bolsonaro’s agenda for the vast majority of the population, who would clearly benefit from a strong labour market and still rely on public services and social safety nets, will also prove to be his downfall.


Laura Carvalho is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Sao Paulo and holds a PhD in Economics from the New School for Social Research. Besides writing weekly columns for Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Laura published the best-selling book "Valsa Brasileira" on the Brazilian economic crisis. Her academic research focuses on the relationship between economic growth and income distribution.


Date                 :               October 2, 2019

Source             :               London School of Economics Latin American and Caribbean




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Behind SA’s brutality



Contemporary South African society has been constructed on the idea of difference. Race and gender differences are intrinsically tied to our history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. During apartheid, these differences were cast into national laws designed to maintain a structure of division and control.

Differences between South Africans and other Africans are rooted in this history and institutionalised and naturalised through borders, policies and laws.

Gender and sexual differences are cemented in and regulated by customary, legal and religious principles that determine who belongs and who does not belong to the nation. Access to citizenship and political rights is thus volatile and leads to various forms of racial, xenophobic and gender violence.

It would seem that xenophobic sentiment and gender violence have become deep-rooted and cemented in social consciousness. How do we explain the recent assault of a grade 10 learner from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at Salt River High School who collapsed from beatings and suffered multiple injuries to her abdomen? She had been receiving threats for months after she was appointed as a class monitor, and her mother had been concerned for her safety after her daughter repeatedly reported bullying incidents associated with her being from another country. Yet, accounts of the events tell different stories. The Western Cape education department says there is no clear evidence that it was a xenophobic attack.

Similarly, the government’s and civil society’s responses to the latest xenophobic attacks have neither been decisive nor conclusive. Government was quick to frame the events as criminal attacks. On international platforms and in communications to embassies, delegates affirmed that South Africa is not a xenophobic country, and that the majority of South Africans do not have prejudices against people from other African countries.

On the other hand, some civil society groups pointed to the particular socioeconomic conditions that characterise black people’s lives in South Africa, showing a picture coloured by poverty in a country with one of the highest inequality rates in the world.

The contradictory relationship of solidarity in some instances and hostility at other times between poor and working-class locals and migrants points to the limitation of the poverty hypothesis.

It is estimated that one in five womxn experience violence in their lifetime and one in nine have been raped. Last year, more than 20 300 womxn were murdered, a rate that is five times higher than the global average. Womxn and children are violated and killed in their homes, in offices, churches, schools and on the streets. This is against a backdrop of womxn having organised in their neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces, and in local and national structures to prevent gender violence — and the establishment of 92 dedicated sexual offences courts since 2013.

These numbers reflect the local picture of sexual and gender-based violence, which is a global epidemic. Recently, the #TotalShutDown movement, the #SandtonShutdown, and globally the #MeToo movement, among many, have again directed public attention to systemic sexual and gender-based violence. These movements and campaigns have sought to foreground the ubiquity of violence against womxn and children and critique male violence or violent masculinities.

How are we to understand the steady rise of this violence and what interventions might be taken to reverse or mitigate the spread of xenophobic and gendered violence?

Between October 8 and 11, the faculty of humanities at the University of Cape Town will host a series of performances, workshops and panel discussions to explore different strands of the issue and have nuanced, honest dialogue.

A key thread in these conversations will be an interrogation of citizenship and the governance of difference. In spite of attempts to undo the legacy of colonial statecraft, the exclusive model of belonging continues to inform dominant ideas about society. Statehood and sovereignty are conceived of as the governance of an assemblage of historically distinct, often antagonistic male-headed “tribes” and races.

In this formulation, womxn’s roles are confined to biological and cultural reproduction while men are the “real” citizens who are there to protect their nation and “their” womxn.

Accordingly, the control of womxn and their bodies becomes the basis for maintaining sovereignty with laws and policies overly preoccupied with sexual relationships, sexual orientation and constraints on reproductive rights. Indeed, violence against womxn and violence against individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles are commonplace. Those who are seen to challenge historical models of imperial racist heteropatriarchy are considered irresponsible citizens and subject to discipline and punishment.

Violence against womxn and violence against people perceived to be foreign has once again brought questions of inequality and belonging to the fore. Reactions and analysis often decouple the embodied forms of violence from practices and sentiments that undergird, precede and mediate them. The question of who belongs and to whom the polity belongs lingers across post-colonial Africa.

While racialised inequality remains a primary contradiction in South Africa, the national question anchored on citizenship and its accompanying rights have assumed prominence in the public sphere.


Dr Shose Kessi is acting dean of the faculty of humanities at the University of Cape Town. Simon Rakei, Dr Asanda Benya and Dr Faisal Garba are in the university’s sociology department.


By                    :               Shose Kessi, Asanda Benya, Faisal Garba, Simon Rakei

Date                 :               October 4, 2019

Source             :               Mail & Guardian




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‘Unprecedented’ Rise In Infant Mortality In England Linked to Poverty


Infant mortality rate (IMR) has risen for the last four years in England, yet the role of increasing levels of child poverty in explaining these trends has been unclear. Rising infant mortality is unusual in high income countries, and international data show that infant mortality has continued to decline in most rich countries in recent years. Infant mortality is a sensitive indicator of the changing overall health of societies and, as such, acts as an early warning system for future adverse trends.

Given the urgent need to understand this extremely concerning trend in England researchers from the University of Liverpool, University of Leeds and Newcastle University conducted an analysis of trends in infant mortality in English local authorities over a 17-year period, 2000-2017 with the aim of providing an explanation for this rise.

The researchers grouped 324 local authorities into 5 categories (quintiles) based on their level of income deprivation with Quintile 1 being the most affluent and Quintile 5 the most deprived. A statistical model was then used to quantify the association between regional changes in child poverty and infant mortality during the same period.

The researchers found that sustained and unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England from 2014-2017 was not experienced evenly across the population. In the most deprived local authorities, the previously declining trend in infant mortality reversed and mortality rose, leading to an additional 24 infant deaths per 100,000 live births per year, relative to the previous trend.

There was no significant change from the pre-existing trend in the most affluent local authorities. As a result, inequalities in infant mortality increased, with the gap between the most and the least deprived local authority areas widening by 52 deaths per 100,000 births. Overall from 2014-2017, there were a total of 572 excess infant deaths compared to what would have been expected based on historical trends. The researchers estimate that each 1% increase in child poverty was significantly associated with an extra 5.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.

The findings suggest that about a third of the increases in infant mortality between 2014 and 2017 may be attributed to rising child poverty, equivalent to an extra 172 infant deaths.

Professor David Taylor-Robinson, the lead author on the research, University of Liverpool, said: “This study provides evidence that the unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country, leaving the more affluent areas unaffected.

“Our analysis also linked the recent increase in infant mortality in England with rising child poverty, suggesting that about a third of the increase in infant mortality from 2014-17 may be attributed to rising child poverty.

“These findings are really concerning given that child poverty is rising. It is time for the government to reverse this trend establishing a welfare system that protects children from poverty.”

“We know that child poverty has a myriad of adverse impacts on other aspects of child health that will have repercussions for decades to come. In the context of increasing health inequalities in England, policies that reduce poverty and social inequalities are likely to reduce the occurrence of infant mortality and that of many other adverse child health outcomes.”

Dr Paul Norman, University of Leeds, said: “The data shows us an unprecedented rise in the deaths of children under one year of age, but our next step is to examine the gestational age and the number of weeks at which infants die, to learn more about when key interventions may be needed or when they are being missed. This will inform the urgent action needed by national and local governments, and help drive the health and social care policies needed to reduce infant mortality rates.”


By                    :               Eurasia Review

Date                 :               October 4, 2019

Source             :               Eurasia Review




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