A Report titled 'Reward Work, Not Wealth' Launched at PMAS-AAUR

Inequality in Pakistan is deep-rooted and structural. Some individuals have thousands of acres of land and thousands in the same vicinity have no landholdings at all. Monthly tuition fee of a student enrolled in an elite schools is three times more than the salary of same school's security guard.


Renowned economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali expressed these views while speaking at the launch event of a report titled 'Reward Work, Not Wealth'. Released by global charity Oxfam, the report reveals how the global economy enables a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes while billions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay. Organized by Oxfam in collaboration with Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) and Indus Consortium, the launch was held in a public policy forum at PMAS-AAUR on January 22, 2018. A large number of academicians, economists, journalists, representatives of the civil society and students attended the event.


Dr. Bengali told the audience that for export of every USD 100, we import goods worth USD 215. And the poor pays the difference. "Richest 10 percent Pakistanis pay 12 percent of their income in taxes while the poorest 10 percent end up giving 16 percent in taxes. We see economic growth in stats released by thestate institutions. What we don't see is that growth is not creating jobs. Financial sector's boom didn't result in creating new jobs," added Dr. Bengali.


Launched in the wake of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Oxfam report says that the richest one percent bagged 82 percent of wealth created last year - poorest half of humanity got one percent only. At the close of the 20th century, the presumption was that greater economic interdependence among countries, buttressed by liberal democratic institutions, would ensure peace and stability well into the new century. However, 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to the report.


Vice chancellor of PMAS-AAUR, Prof. Dr. Sarwat N. Mirza said that we spend just two percent of our GDP on Education. "Inequality can't be reduced unless we increase this spending to four percent at least. Students from rural areas of Pakistan can't compete with urban students due to lack of opportunities and low income levels. Findings and recommendation of reports like this should be circulated among all segments of the society so as to addressing inequality through generating a result-oriented debate on this burning issue," emphasized Dr. Mirza.


Speaking on the occasion, Oxfam's Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said, "We do not have authenticated data to measure the actual level of income and wealth inequality in Pakistan and how in recent years the fortunes of rich have increased. One of the major reasons of rising disparity in Pakistan is lower wages of workers' infringement of labour rights." He went on to add, "Minimum wage in Pakistan is fraction of living wage on which a family of four can live a decent life in urban centres, that is also not implemented. The sizable gap in education and health outcomes, between rich and poor income groups, highlights a significant level of inequality."


According to Oxfam's report women workers often find themselves off at the bottom of the heap. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, 9 out of 10 billionaires are men. "Pervasive gender inequality manifested in different dimensions in Pakistan, which means that women's work is devalued and they end up working in low paid job and bear the undue burden of unpaid care work. 87 percent of female employees in Pakistan earned less than minimum wage," Qazilbash elaborated.


Dr. Nadia Tahir asked that how we can address gender aspects of economic inequality when a great number of women is missing in the census. "Awareness and education come later, first consider women humans. Count them properly in the census. Not only wage inequality between genders is one of the worst in Pakistan but our maternal mortality rate is also highest in South Asia. Landholdings of women are less than one percent. We need policies and actions to reduce this gender inequality, if ending it altogether is not possible in the near future," demanded Dr. Tahir.


While highlighting the recommendations of the report, Oxfam's Mustafa Talpur told the inherent inability of our structure of our economy needs to be addressed first up. "We recommend to the government to regularize, restructure and redesign our economy and the way business are run. Set concrete and time-bound targets and action plans. Tackle all forms of gender inequality. Recognize and protect citizen's rights. Use tax to reduce extreme wealth and bound corporations to share profits with the workers," Talpur elaborated.


The report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers' pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers' rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders. Oxfam is calling for governments to ensure a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires' wealth could pay for every child to go to school.