Overall, fewer children dying, but Africa and some parts Asia not keeping pace
Richest 1% in several countries have 10-20% of national wealth
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Global child mortality, which measures the number of deaths of children under age five, has fallen from 12 million a year to 6.9m, from 1990 to 2011, a report issued by Unicef 13 September shows. Remarkable improvement has occurred in every region of the world, says the UN children’s body, but disparities are growing:
“Under-5 deaths are increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. One in every nine children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before reaching the age of 5. And progress in lowering child mortality rates lags behind among disadvantaged and marginalized people, around the world. Undernutrition is a factor in one third of all under-5 child deaths.”
Just five countries account for about half of the deaths: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China.
The report argues that “the prevailing belief since the 1980s that governments, in pursuing greater economic efficiency, have to tolerate greater inequality is not true”, suggesting that “policies that preserve the share of workers in national income and redistribute income through progressive taxation and public spending would improve equality as well as economic efficiency and growth.
“For years, the dominant approach to fiscal policy has sought to minimize State intervention and eliminate the alleged distortion of progressive taxation. In labour markets, policy was reoriented towards more flexibility in wage formation and at less job protection, which in this view discourages hiring. These structural reforms contributed to rising income inequality without leading to better social services, higher investment, stronger employment creation and growth.”
19,000 deaths a day due to preventable diseases
Unicef and the other UN agencies that contribute to the child mortality report are focusing heavily on preventable diseases. “About 14,000 fewer children under 5 die each day than was the case 21 years ago – chiefly because of huge strides in tackling polio, measles and malaria.” Another 19,000 are still dying every day, largely from preventable diseases, the report shows.
“We’re concentrating our energies much more on the countries where the biggest challenges remain. We’re re-focusing on the killers of children that haven’t received enough attention yet,” says Unicef’s chief of health, Ian Pett. Those killers include pneumonia, which contributes to 18 percent of deaths of children under five, and diarrhea, which is responsible for 11 percent, says the organization.
Wages have risen, but slipped as share of wealth, worldwide
Unctad, the UN Conference on Trade and Development based in Geneva, also points to growing disparities, among and within countries, but for wages as a share of wealth. The “Trade and Development Report (TDR) 2012″ (can be downloaded) issued 13 September shows that over the past three decades, “personal income distribution” became more equal up to 1970, but since then the income gap has been widening in developed but also developing countries, albeit following different patterns. Personal income distribution is measured as the distribution between profits and wages, disparities between income categories and redistribution by the State.
“The Gini coefficient that measures income inequality across all income groups confirms this trend: in 15 out of 22 developed countries, personal income distribution deteriorated between 1980 and 2000, though in 8 of them this trend was reversed to some extent after 2000.”
In Latin America and the Caribbean this inequality peaked by 2000 and has since fallen. However “it remains higher than before the 1980s”.
Sub-Sarahan Africa has 6 of 10 most unequal countries
The picture in Africa is mixed, with the income gap narrowing after 1995 in 15 out of 25 countries “mainly in Southern Africa and West Africa, but sub-Saharan Africa still accounted for 6 of the 10 countries with the most unequal income distribution in the world”, according to the report.
Many Asian economies saw income from financial activities rise “considerably faster than from other activities” and while inequality of personal income “is generally lower than in other developing regions” it has increased, a development “particularly evident in India.”
China, top 1% share has grown, but low compare internationally
China is a special case: fast economic growth has come with a “marked rise in inequality”, so that despite rapid growth in the average real wage, “the share of labour in total income has declined and wage disparities have grown.” New Chinese million and billionaires make headlines, but while “the share of the top 1 percent incomes in total incomes has also increased since 1985, it remains low by international comparisons.”