PARIS – Of the total global labour income in 2021, 35% was earned by women which is slightly better than the corresponding figure in 1990 which was 31%. This means that men still account for twice the wages of women around the world, with very few women in the top income bracket. 

These were some of the revelations made in the World Inequality Report 2022 released in December. Based on data compiled by and analysis made by more than a hundred researchers who contributed to the World Inequality Database, the report talks about the inequities based on aspects like global wealth, income, gender and ecological inequalities. 

“The COVID crisis has exacerbated inequalities between the very wealthy and the rest of the population. Yet, in rich countries, government intervention prevented a massive rise in poverty, this was not the case in poor countries. This shows the importance of social states in the fight against poverty,” said Lucas Chancel, the lead author of the report.

As per the authors, this was the first time an attempt was made to collate estimates of gender inequality in global earnings. They demonstrated the slow progress in this regard by comparing the 2021 data with what was available from 1990 – only a 4% increase in three decades. 

“Women continue to have less access to the labor market (and especially to the most rewarding occupations) in many countries and this exacerbates the gender inequality in total earnings,” stated researchers Theresa Neef and Anne-Sophie Robilliard in the chapter titled ‘Half The Sky? The Female Labour Income Share in a Global Perspective’. 

Moldova comes closest to closing the labour income gap at 45% of its labour income earned by women with other Eastern Bloc countries also performing well on this count. Asian countries had particularly wide gaps with Pakistan and Afghanistan at 10%, India at 18% and China at 33%. Overall, eleven countries from the region had scored above 30%. Five of the middle eastern countries (Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman) scored less than 10%. In the region, Israel stood out with 38% of its wages going to women. 

The report also points out that globally, women spend a lot of their time on unpaid care work. This workload often prevents them from participating in the labour market and attaining high-paying positions at work. “Women’s representation in the top 1% is substantially lower than in the top 10% in all countries, indicating that there is a strong “glass-ceiling” effect, whereby the   wage gap increases towards the top of the wage distribution,” states the report. It added that the female representation among top earners was better in Spain, Costa Rica and Brazil than in the USA and France which have scored high on women’s participation in economic activities.

The main takeaways from the report were:
  • MENA is the most unequal region in the world, Europe has the lowest inequality levels
  • Nations have become richer, but governments have become poor, when we take a look at the gap between the net wealth of governments and net wealth of the private and public sectors
  • Wealth inequalities have increased at the very top of the distribution. The rise in private wealth has also been unequal within countries and at the world level. Global multimillionaires have captured a disproportionate share of global wealth growth over the past several decades: the top 1% took 38% of all additional wealth accumulated since the mid-1990s, whereas the bottom 50% captured just 2% of it.
  • Gender inequalities remain considerable at the global level, and progress within countries is too slow
  • Ecological inequality: our data shows that these inequalities are not just a rich vs. poor country issue, but rather a high emitters vs low emitters issue within all countries.