England crash out in 2nd round of Oxfam’s inequality World Cup

Posted by Sarah Dransfield Senior Press Officer

11th Jun 2014

Belgium would be champions, whilst host national Brazil would come last in their group

World leaders need to do more to ensure a level playing field between rich and poor, Oxfam said today as it published a World Cup wall chart showing how the 32 countries who have qualified fare on inequality.

Belgium (ranked 12th best team in the world by FIFA) would win the World Cup for having the smallest gap between rich and poor, beating Germany (FIFA rank 2) in the final. England would put in a disappointing performance, going out with an embarrassing defeat to Japan in the second round.

Oxfam's Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva said: "In our World Cup, England pay the penalty for successive governments' failure to tackle the growing gap between rich and poor. We live in a country where the richest 10 per cent earn more than the bottom 40 per cent and five families between them own more than 12 million people.  

"But this is not just an English disease; leaders around the world urgently need to agree a new goal to reduce inequality. That will require action to prevent a global elite rigging the economic rules of the game in their favour at the expense of the poor."

An Oxfam report published earlier this year warned that the richest 85 people now own as much as the poorest half of the world's population and that 70 percent of people live in countries where inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

Oxfam's World Cup wallchart was calculated using the Palma ratio - a measure widely used by economists and academics to work out how income is distributed between rich and poor. Latin American countries came out with the biggest gap between the richest 10% of the population and the poorest 40%, earning themselves an inequality red card. Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina, as well as host nation Brazil, would all come bottom of their groups, despite the fact inequality has been reducing in the region over the last 10 years.

Eight Latin-Americans appear in the top 100 of the Forbes list of richest people in the world, with a combined wealth of over $180 billion. At the same time 164 million people in the region are living in poverty.

Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva said: "The levels of inequality in Latin America are staggering and despite some significant progress over recent years it continues to be among the most unequal regions in the world. The rules of the game in these countries still largely work in favour of the richest - and therefore the most powerful citizens.

"But Latin America is starting to head in the right direction and is the only region in the world where income inequality is actually reducing. If the world continues on its current inequality path this wallchart could look very different in four years time."

Russia and Ghana would also earn themselves a red card on inequality, whilst USA, Nigeria, Mexico, Algeria, Uruguay, Ecuador, Australia and Cote D'Ivoire would all get a yellow card for finishing third in their groups.

Favourites to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Spain, would lose in the semi-finals to Japan. They are equally matched on the Palma scale but are knocked out on 'penalties' as they lag behind Japan on other indices including: poverty rates, corruption and health and education indicators.

Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva said: "In all nations, high levels of inequality are offending people's sense of fair play. Watching people with extreme wealth get even richer is a kick in the teeth for the world's poorest and it's time to blow the whistle on policies which contribute to the widening gap between the richest and the rest."

Oxfam is calling on all governments to tackle inequality by cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging, by investing in universal education and healthcare, and by introducing a global goal to end extreme inequality in every country.

A recent survey** from 40 countries found that 85% of people thought inequality was too high, and over 70% thought that it was their government's responsibility to reduce it.

/Ends

Data for World Cup Inequality Wallchart attached

Further information: Jon Slater 01865 472249/ 07866581526/ jslater@oxfam.org.uk

Notes to editors

There is no Palma ration or other inequality indices for England alone; therefore we've used a figure for the UK as a proxy.

*The Palma ratio looks at the income of two different groups; the richest 10% of people in the country and the poorest 40% and compares the total income earned by these two groups. In Honduras, the most unequal of the countries compared, the richest 10% of the population make over 5 times as much as the poorest 40% of the population. In England the richest 10% earn 1.4 times more than the poorest 40%.

** A recent survey from ODI, April 2014: http://www.odi.org.uk/publications/8186-redistribution-popular-social-conflict-politics-inequality

Jon Slater

Blog post written by Sarah Dransfield

Senior Press Officer

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