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In 2017, 82% of global wealth generated went to the richest 1%, while half of the world's population lives on less than $5.50 per day. Inequality persists along racial, class, and caste lines, exacerbating intergenerational disparities and disproportionately affecting minorities and vulnerable communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed systemic inequality and injustice in our societies. Financialization of the global economy, where returns on capital surpass economic growth, has benefited asset owners and the already wealthy, while workers have not reaped the same rewards. The traditional "trickle-down" paradigm has failed, perpetuating inequality. Health outcomes and the climate crisis also reflect inequality, with marginalized groups experiencing higher rates of chronic conditions and bearing the brunt of climate-related impacts. Social protection systems, including education, healthcare, and support for the vulnerable, are vital for addressing inequality and promoting well-being. However, adapting welfare approaches to changing demographics, labor markets, and economic pressures remains a challenge. Criticisms of existing welfare systems come from both the Right and the Left, highlighting the need for sustainable taxation and efficient targeting. Inequality is not only increasing between countries but also within regions and specific nations. Economic growth in Europe, North America, and China is expected to predominantly benefit the affluent segments of society, while poverty and social exclusion persist, particularly in rural areas. The interaction between various forms of inequality poses a significant risk of social conflict, leading to political radicalization, terrorism, and politically motivated violence. Addressing inequality and promoting well-being require robust social protection systems and adapting welfare approaches to changing demographics, labor markets, and economic pressures.

Social Welfare & Inequalities

Inequality remains a pervasive issue globally, with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, while half of the world's population lives on less than $5.50 per day. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed systemic inequality and injustice in societies, with these issues deeply intertwined with health outcomes and the climate crisis. It is clear that addressing inequality and promoting well-being require robust social protection systems and adaptive welfare approaches.

Beyond the Welfare State to Basic Income:
In the face of rising inequality, proposals for radical alternatives to the welfare state are gaining momentum. The idea of "predistribution", through policies like minimum wage legislation or the recognition of unions, is gaining traction as a complement to "after the fact" redistribution. There's also a growing focus on concepts of "basic capital" and "basic income", which aim to achieve simpler and more elegant forms of social protection, avoiding some of the paternalistic aspects of existing welfare states. As the discourse on basic income matures, we are likely to hear more about this in the future.

Demands for Justice:
Justice, in its many dimensions encompassing redistribution, recognition, and representation, is a critical piece of the inequality puzzle. International bodies such as the International Court of Justice provide frameworks for addressing justice demands. However, the recent challenges stemming from climate change and rapid technological advancements have exposed limitations in existing international legal frameworks, necessitating the development of new mechanisms for oversight and redress.

Fiscal Policies to Support Social Protection:
The sustainability of welfare systems and social protection is dependent on robust systems of taxation. Yet, rising national debt levels and economic pressures force governments to find a delicate balance between spending and tax revenue. Policy decisions must consider the potential impacts on deficits, economic growth, and the well-being of citizens.

Labour Market Participation:
Declining workforce participation rates place stress on social protection systems. However, well-designed welfare systems can also promote greater participation, potentially serving as self-funding interventions. The challenge is to develop policies that foster participation without sacrificing the social protections that these systems provide.

Reasons for Welfare and Social Protection:
While welfare and social protection systems are often criticized, these systems play a crucial role in protecting the most vulnerable members of society and promoting economic prosperity. The diversity in justifications for these systems suggests that there may be no "one-size-fits-all" approach.

Social Protection in Ageing Societies:
As the global population ages, questions about the sustainability of commitments to social protection are being raised. With growing numbers of elderly individuals, especially in low-income countries, social protection systems are being strained, leading to innovative approaches to ensure these systems continue to serve their purpose.

Target the Poor or Value Universalism?:
The need for better data and targeting is apparent in poverty alleviation efforts, but an excessive focus on one segment of the population can have mixed consequences. Policymakers must consider when specific targeting is required and when there may be more value in universal provision.

Weakening of Human Rights
Despite extensive efforts to establish systems to protect people, human rights remain under serious threat around the world. More accountable national governments and more ambitious global alliances dedicated to upholding rights are urgently needed to ensure the inherent dignity of every individual.

9. Welfare Models and Critiques:

There is a diversity of welfare models globally, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Critiques from various political perspectives influence the evolution of these models, highlighting the need for continued research and policy experimentation.

Widening Inequalities:
While progress has been made in reducing absolute poverty, the gap between the wealthiest and poorest is widening. Multiple forms of inequality persist and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mitigating these inequalities requires a mix of bottom-up and top-down changes that recognize that the social and economic systems exacerbating inequality are a matter of choice, not inevitability.

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