The unequal treatment of individuals based on their gender is a deeply rooted problem in most societies. It started becoming an important part of academic research in the 1980s. The issue of gender inequality also became in various measures part of the Human Development Index (HDI), the annual report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and was eventually integrated as the Gender Inequality Index (GII) in the 2010 report. It is designed to measure the loss of achievement within a country caused by gender inequality.
Make it happen is this year’s theme of International Women’s Day. The day is Internationally the day is celebrated every year on March 8th since 1911 and in 1917 demonstrations in the context of the Women’s Day lead to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. What had started as a socialist event to recognize women’s economic, political, and social struggles and achievements has now lost this ideological connotation. Today it is rather regarded as an opportunity to raise awareness for the inequality women still experience in all societies.
In some countries the day is still an official holiday, such as in Russia and other former socialist republics, but also in Afghanistan, Angola and Eritrea. In China, Madagascar, Macedonia and Nepal it is a holiday solely for women.
Gender inequality remains a pressing challenge globally and is seen as a major barrier to human development which is why the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) has a specific indicator to take these problems into account. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) measures gender (in)equity in health, education, work and politics.
The following map shows one indicator from the current GII that highlights the political representation of women in parliaments worldwide measured by the share of seats in parliament (with data for 2013). The map uses an equal-population projection which gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space:
“England is increasingly divided between the rich and the poor, with a 60% increase in poor households and a 33% increase in wealthy households. This has come at a time – 1980 to 2010 – when the number of middle-income households went down by 27%.” In a Londonmapper report that was featured in today’s Observer newspaper we showed how the groups of poor and wealthy and the remaining ‘middle’ have changed in England over the past three decades.
These two charts, showing the absolute and relative changes in the number of households in each group, highlight that poor and middle households have come to being almost equally large groups in the British capital in the period, with a clear trend in growing numbers of poor and wealthy households and a shrinking middle part. These polarising trends of growing inequality are not only prevalent in London, but also continue in the rest of the country. The following cartogram visualisation uses the absolute changes between 1980 and 2010 and shows how the increase in poverty and wealth compares across the regions of England and the Borough of London and looks at the decline in the middle in the same way. How the middle is squeezed out of London becomes particularly apparent in these images, as London dominates much of the map while growing numbers of poor and wealthy households are more evenly distributed across the country:
The debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.
This year’s World Science Day for Peace and Development, established by UNESCO in 2001, is promoting Quality Science Education: ensuring a sustainable future for all. According to UNESCO, the day “offers an opportunity to mobilize various partners to highlight the important role of science in society and to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues and the relevance of science in their daily lives”. While the importance of science is less disputed, the reality of ensuring scientific progress through excellent academic education remains a highly unequal matter, as many global academic rankings show.
This feature is an update to the work originally compiled last year in collaboration with Phil Baty of Times Higher Education and which first appeared in the World University Rankings. In this update I put the latest rankings results for 2014/15 into a human and economic perspective. The first two maps show the top 200 Universities from the Ranking displayed on two different kinds of gridded cartograms:
“We should … dethrone the idea that maximising the growth in measured prosperity, GDP per capita, should be an explicit objective of economic and social policy.”
Adair Turner, Chair of the UK Financial Services Authority, 2007
Today I gave a talk at the meeting of the Sustainability Knowledge Alliance and the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK Parliament at the British Academy in London. The event aimed at discussing the relationship between growing inequality and sustainability. As the meeting’s announcement explains, “in so many ways inequality is a backdrop to many features of modern political, economic and social arrangements where structures of self-reinforcing power and influence combine to buttress non-sustainability. We see this in the lobbying for the perpetuation of a carbon economy, in the promotion of the “war on terror”, and in the huge biases built into the interweaving connections between business, politics, regulation and consumerism.”
In my talk I explained how inequality and a consumption correlate. I looked at the issue mainly from a global perspective, using evidence that Danny Dorling and I compiled to find out to what extent inequality and (un)sustainability correlate. The following series of charts give in insight into how the level of inequality and a range of indicators related to consumerism and consumption compare:
Inequality and the ecological footprint