Tag Archives: inequality

The Geographical Journal Content Alert: Volume 178, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of The Geographical Journal is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

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Revolting against inequality and discrimination

Burnt out car, 6th November 2005. Picture taken during the French suburb riots by François Schnell.

By Rosa Mas Giralt

The Guardian newspaper is currently publishing a series of reports looking at the increased political presence of anti-immigrant movements all across contemporary Europe. Within this series, yesterday’s article by Angelique Chrisafis entitled “Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots”, focused on the current state of affairs in Clichy-sous-Bois, the neighbourhood at the edge of the French capital where the 2005 riots started. It made sad reading. Time has not transformed the social issues (e.g. poor housing, marginalization, joblessness, racism) that lay at the root of the revolts which were sparked after the death of two youngsters who were hiding from the police. Discrimination against young non-white French people and immigrants is rife and there have been no signs of convincing policy initiatives to address the situation. Unfortunately, in the current uncertain economic climate, right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric continues to dominate the French debate on immigration and ethnic minorities. The riots could potentially reignite at any point.

In 2007, Geography Compass published an article by Mustafa Dikeç which focused on the 2005 riots in the banlieues of Paris. In it he argued that a geographical approach to analyzing these revolts can provide a better understanding of their recurrence. The article provides a historical perspective of the revolts, exploring similar incidents that have taken place in the country since the 1980s, and relating the creation of the banlieues to France’s post-war economic and political transformations and colonial past. Dikeç (2007: 1203) suggests that “geographies of revolts overlap with geographies of mass unemployment, discrimination and repression”, geographies which have been expanding in the last 30 years. From this perspective, revolts can be understood as resistance movements and not as ‘imitation’ incidents, based on the logic of ‘copycat effects’, which have dominated behavioural accounts.

Read The Guardian‘s series of reports “Europe: Immigrants under pressure”

Read article by Angelique Chrisafis “Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots”. The Guardian. 16th Nov 2010

Read Mustafa Dikeç (2007) “Revolting geographies: urban unrest in France”. Geography Compass. 1(5): 1190-1206.

Human Development and Inequalities

by Magali Bonne-Moreau

What do Ethiopia and Cambodia have in common? Aside from their complicated political histories, these two countries have made great improvements in education and public health over the past 40 years, in spite of low incomes. Their progress places them among the “top movers” in a list of 135 countries, according to new indicators used to compile the latest Human Development Index (HDI), with Ethiopia in 11th place, and Cambodia in 15th place.

Since 1970, the world has experienced significant overall improvements in living standards and access to health and education, but there have been disparities, both globally and within countries, according to the 2010 edition of the UN Human Development Report, published earlier this month. These conclusions are based on a systematic review of human development opportunities and challenges at national and global levels over the past 40 years. The additional indicators used to determine the new HDI confirm that progress is possible even in countries with limited resources – in other words, there is no direct link between economic growth and progress in human development.

While these results are extremely insightful and deserve to be examined in detail, there is another noteworthy aspect of the 20th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report. Three new human development indices have been introduced to take into account growing concerns about inequality, gender equity, and the multidimensional nature of poverty.

The original Human Development Index  is a composite index developed in 1990 to measure the level of development of a country by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income. The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) considers the effect of inequality on human development by looking at disparities in the HDI indicators.

According to Jonathan Glennie of the Guardian, “One of the main findings of the first 10 years of the Millennium Development Goals is that inequality matters… Equality matters as an end in itself, and it matters as one of the quickest means to reduce absolute poverty.” As geographers, we also have a role to play in the way inequality is addressed and researched.  For those of you who are interested in learning more, Alan Gilbert discusses this comprehensively in a Geography Compass paper entitled “Inequality and why it matters”.

Read Gilbert, A., 2007. Inequality and Why It Matters. Geography Compass, 1(3), pp.422-447

Read the Guardian article by Jonathan Glennie

Read the UNDP Human Development Report 2010 – The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development

The Spirit Level: UK inequalities and a new social Darwinism

On 26 July 2010 The Guardian newspaper ran an editorial on the recent discussion around the book The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The thesis of the 2009 book had been briefly picked up by some “modernising Conservatives, up to and including David Cameron, to demonstrate their progressive credentials”, but more recently had been attacked by a range of rightwing thinktanks on both sides of the Atlantic. (Attacks the book’s authors have responded to.) The book argues that highly unequal societies tend to do worse on a whole range of social indicators, for example in areas such as crime and health. The Guardian concluded that “Even though its great sweep invites all manner of sceptical questions, this book’s inconvenient truths must be faced.”

A forthcoming article by Danny Dorling, “All connected? Geographies of race, death, wealth, votes and births” addresses some of the  Spirit Level issues in a UK context. Dorling notes that in the UK income inequality has returned to 1918 levels, having risen for the last 30 years, after falling for 60. Similarly, Dorling shows that in terms of life expectancy, wealth and voting segregation, the UK had become once again as socially divided in 2010 as it had been in 1934. Dorling identifies correlations (in the 1918 – 2005 period) between income, health and the geographical concentration of Conservative votes, and concludes “When the rich take even more of the national income of a country (and almost all of its wealth), the health of the poor suffers and voting in general elections becomes more spatially polarised.”

Going beyond this, Dorling argues that the UK’s post-1970s rise in social and economic inequalities contributed to a revival of social Darwinism (“a kind of growing racism against the poor”), which had been rejected in the more equitable post-war era. Continue reading

Unsustainable extremes? Geographies of wealth

by Jayne Glass

In April 2010 the Sunday Times newspaper reported that the wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK had risen by an average of £77 million each in just one year, to now stand at £335.5 billion.  Earlier in the year, the ‘Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK’ report presented a startling analysis of how unequal Britain’s wealth has become: the richest 10% of the population are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10% of society. The report finds that the government failed to ‘plug the gap’ between the poorest and richest in society in the 1980s.

In an ‘early view’ article in The Geographical Journal, Danny Dorling analyses inequality trends and  suggests there were key times when the trends changed direction.  However, he also finds that is hard to identify when a government changed from the trend data.  As a result, Dorling suggests that three main parties offer very similar solutions to the issue of reducing inequality and therefore it seems unlikely that voting will make much of a difference. Instead, political parties need to rethink how they will tackle growing issues of inequality that have led to such unsustainable extremes of wealth in the UK.

Read BBC News: ‘Super-rich become wealthier again’ (24 April 2010)

Read The Guardian: ‘Unequal Britain: richest 10 % are now 100 times better off than the poorest’ (27 January 2010)

Read ‘An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK’ (report commissioned by Harriet Harman, published January 2010)

Read Dorling, D. (early view) All connected? Geographies of race, death, wealth, votes and births. The Geographical Journal.

Tough but fair?: The Emergency Budget

Sarah Mills

George Osborne announced his “tough but fair” Emergency Budget yesterday, aiming to tackle Britain’s record debt.  The coalitions first budget included an increase in VAT, personal income tax allowance and capital gains tax as well as freezes to child benefit for the next three years, new maximum limits on housing benefits and a two-year pay freeze on public sector pay.  A more detailed analysis of the budget and figures can be read here at the BBC’s website, but reaction to the announcement has been mixed and in some cases highly critical.  Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman described the budget as “a Tory budget that will throw people out of work, that will hold back economic growth and will harm vital public services”.  This budget has once again opened up debates about the growing economic and social inequalities in British society.

In The Geographical Journal, Danny Dorling examines the rising wealth gap in Britain.  In particular, he focuses on the relationships between inequality trends and changes in government.  Dorling maintains that “inequalities are now at unsustainable extremes” and muses at the prospective changes for a new government.  Written in April 2010, before the results of the general election the following month, he reflected that “it could be time for a change again? Which way will we go?”  Now the outcome of that election is known, and the policies of the new coalition government are emerging, geographers are well placed to contribute to the debates about how the budget will affect people’s lives and the growing wealth gap.

Go to ‘The Budget: June 2010’ mini site on BBC Online.

  Read Dorling, Danny.  (2010) ‘All connected? Geographies of race, death, wealth, votes and births’ in The Geographical Journal. [Early View], accepted for publication in April 2010

iPad controversy highlights growing inequality in China

by Michelle Brooks

Despite a plethora of reasons why I am not holding a new Apple iPad (mostly financial), recent news of a spate of suicides at the Foxconn plant near Shenzhen in China where it is made has forced me to consider concerns that are of course hardly new to Geographers.  Don’t get me wrong, I am as gadget hungry as the next person but I was struck by the sense of crisis that led to this final act of desperation, and as a consumer of electronics (like the laptop I am writing on) I can’t help but feel deeply my part, the consumers part, in all of this. The 300,000 workers who live at the Longhua factory work six days a week and average overtime is 120 hours per month equating to an average 70 hour week, the maximum set by Apple. Workers must not talk during working hours and regularly ‘burn out’ leading to an enormous staff turnover of 50,000 a month.

The mediation of commodities through markets, advertising, global hysteria, exoticism and status et alia dilutes the knowledge we have of the half-life existence of those whose hands produce them, as discussed in an article by Peter Jackson for Transactions(1999), and increases the distance between us and the production line. It is possible that though factory conditions have not got worse or changed recently, what has changed is the Chinese factory worker. Globalisation produces outcomes on all sides one of which is rising inequality. With its previously socialist framework China is experiencing the emergence of inequity; industrialisation and the economic boom potentially fuelling new aspirations and heightening expectations. 
Fulong Wu
(2003) writes in Area of the impact of this emerging inequality in Beijing through a case study of housing trends.

Reaction from Apple has been swift, and a raft of measures to increase wellbeing for the workers is planned including a reported 80% pay increase, indicative of previous low wages.  For my part the events at the Longhua plant are a stark reminder that though we in the ‘West’ increasingly manage to drive down the price of commodities; somewhere, someone is paying the price.

Virtual Conference Report: Day Four (23 Oct, 2009)

800px-L-Assemblee-Nationale-Gillrayby paulabowles The first week of the conference has come to an end, and the final day has included two exciting papers, as well as a publishing workshop. The first paper entitled ‘Full Disclosure of the “Raw Data” of Research on Humans: Citizens’ Rights, Product Manufacturer’s Obligations and the Quality of the Scientific Database’ was presented by Dennis Mazur (Oregon Health and Sciences University). In his lecture, Mazur highlights the difficult and contentious issues involved in human testing, particularly the tensions between participants and drug manufacturers. The second paper also takes an interdisciplinary approach to medical matters. Eileen Smith‐Cavros (Nova Southeastern University) lecture entitled ‘Fertility and Inequality Across Borders: Assisted Reproductive Technology and Globalization’ looks at the emotive issue of assisted reproduction. By surveying existing literature, Smith Cavros is able to look in detail at some of the many issues which impact upon reproduction. Together with these two papers, Duane Wegener’s (Purdue University) publishing workshop: ‘Top 10 mistakes New Scholars Make When Trying to Get Published’ marked the end of the first week. Enjoy the weekend and we look forward to seeing you next week.