Oxfam, an international charity which seeks lasting solutions to injustice of poverty, is advocating for tax reforms that will eat more in the pockets of the richest individuals in society while investing the dividends to empower the poor.
Tax reforms are one of the recommendations in a new report on inequality which Oxfam released to journalists in Lilongwe on Monday.
Providing both the global context and local focus, the report says caregivers such as housemaids, office messengers, cleaners, security guards are being left behind by the global economy while the rich get richer; hence, the call to authorities to take action.
Speaking during the release of the report, Oxfam in Malawi governance programme manager Mathias Kafunda said the report addresses inequality which world leaders should address at the World Economic Forum.
He said: “These caregivers are underpaid even when we have prescribed minimum wage and we need, as a country, to move away from the minimum wage and introduce a living wage.”
Kafunda said most women undertaking unpaid or underpaid care service are also affected by poor investment in the public sector such as dysfunctional hospitals. He said this deprives them of both disposable income and access to crucial services.
Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) acting executive director Kettie Nyasulu said the broad reforms Oxfam is advocating are necessary and feasible.
She said women shoulder much of the burden of inequality, both as majority of caregivers and forming the rest of those living below the poverty line.
In an earlier report titled A Dangerous Divide: The State of Inequality in Malawi (2015), Oxfam warned that economic inequalities were devouring societies.
And in yet another report titled Closing the Divide, Oxfam also called for the introduction of the living minimum wage which Malawi is yet to introduce.
Besides highlighting the need for tax reforms, the new report observes that the gap between the richest and caregivers can be bridged if governments make concerted efforts and bold policy decisions to mend the damage already done and to build economic systems that care for all citizens.
The report calls for increased taxation of an additional 0.5 percent of the wealth of the richest one percent over the next 10 years, saying the revenue generated is equal to investments needed to create 117 million jobs in education, health and elderly care and other sectors as well as closing care deficits.
The report also calls for investment in national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls, ending extreme wealth to end extreme poverty, legislate to protect the rights of all careers and secure living wages for paid care workers.
It also calls for action to ensure caregivers have influence on decision-making processes and are empowered to challenge harmful norms and sexist beliefs, value care in business policies and practices with businesses urged to recognise the value of care work and sustain the wellbeing of workers.
Several recent reports, including the United Nations Human Development Report (HDR) have pointed out growing inequalities in Malawi despite human development rising by 60 percent.
The HDR said “systematic inequalities” are pushing more Malawians into what the Human Development Index (HDI) described as multidimensional poverty with a deprivation rate of at least 33.3 percent.
Malawi’s high poverty rates, which the UN’s HDR puts at 52 in every 100 people, come against a background of the country implementing policies aimed at reducing poverty levels. Such policies include Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
Economists have suggested progressive tax systems and investment in social spending as panacea for inequality.