Income inequality is the top threat facing the world in 2015, according to experts from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Along with increasing joblessness, global pollution, and severe weather events, inequality is a pressing concern cited in a report released by the WEF’s Global Agenda Councils.
The report includes data from a survey of 1,767 leaders from academia, business, government, and non-profits.
That income inequality is a concern is not new, but the amount at which it’s growing makes the threat more real. “There’s been a staggering rise in inequality,” Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said in early October.
“Seven out of 10 people in the world today live in countries where inequality has increased in the last three decades.”
According to the Pew Research Center, “Majorities in all of the 44 nations polled say the gap between rich and poor is a big problem facing their countries, and majorities in 28 nations identify this as a very big problem.”
That concern is worse in developing economies and emerging markets, but is held by those in advanced markets as well. However, people in advanced economies are reported to show more concern about public debt and unemployment than inequality.
The United States has seen quite an increase in inequality. Numbers from the US Federal Reserve show that America’s richest 10 percent saw income increases of 10 percent, while the incomes of the poorest 20% fell by 8% between 2010 and 2013.
Another huge problem looming is joblessness, which is not being seen as an issue of economic lull, but rather one of what the job landscape looks like for the future. Harvard professor Larry Summers cited technological changes and increasing automated work as causes for this problem.
The Pew Research Center’s 2014 survey of technology experts found that “half envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers.”