The Urgency of Tackling Inequalities
Opening remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the High-Level Policy Forum on Tackling Inequalities
Growing income inequality in OECD countries: What drives it and how can policy tackle it?
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) May 2011
Available online PDF [14p.] at: http://bit.ly/mgMh9b
“…..Which lessons for policies?
Reforming tax and benefit policies is the most direct and powerful instrument to increase redistributive effects. Large and persistent losses of low-income groups following recessions underline the importance of well-targeted income-support policies. Government transfers – both in cash and in-kind – have an important role to play to guarantee that low-income households do not fall further back in the income distribution.
At the other end of the income spectrum, the relative stability of higher incomes – and their longer-term trends – is important to bear in mind in planning reforms of redistribution policies more broadly. It may be necessary to review whether existing tax provisions are still optimal in light of equity considerations and current revenue requirements. This is especially the case where the share of overall tax burdens borne by high-income groups has declined over recent years (e.g., because of non-compliance, cuts in marginal income taxes or because tax expenditures mainly benefit high-income groups).
However, redistribution strategies based on government transfers and taxes alone would be neither effective nor financially sustainable. A key challenge for policy is to facilitate and encourage access to employment for under-represented groups. This requires not only new jobs, but jobs that enable people to avoid and escape poverty. Recent trends towards higher rates of in-work poverty indicate that job quality has become a concern for a growing number of workers. Policy reforms that tackle inequalities in the labour market, such as those between standard and non-standard forms of employment, are needed to reduce income inequality.
Policies that invest in human capital of the workforce are needed. This requires better training and education for the low-skilled. The latter would serve to boost their productivity potential and future earnings. Over the past two decades, the trend to increased education attainment has been one of the most important elements in counteracting the underlying increase in wage inequality in the longer run. Policies that promote the up-skilling of the workforce are therefore key factors to reverse the trend to further growing inequality…..”
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