Senior cleaner at Lau Pa Sat (TOC stock photo)

Oxfam chides The World Bank for downplaying the severity of inequality in its 2019 World Development Report

The World Bank published their 2019 World Development Report entitled ‘The Changing Nature of Work’. The report touches on the impact of advancing technology on labour needs and job security. Specifically, the report acknowledges that many feel threatened by the shift toward automation, especially workers in advanced economies, but iterates that technology is also creating more jobs, increasing productivity, and delivering effective public services. It claims that the fear of innovation is unfounded.

Among the suggestions put forth by The World Bank on how the world economy can begin to truly embrace technology include loosening labour regulations and encouraging governments to provide more inclusive social protection in conjunction with the rise of the ‘gig economy’ or short-term work.

However, Oxfam disagrees. Head of Oxfam International’s Washington office Nadia Daar said in a statement, “It is irresponsible for the World Bank to promote the deregulation of labour and the dismantling of the rights that workers have long fought for. The report downplays the severity of inequality and contradicts internationally agreed labour standards. Just last week, the IMF said higher minimum wages are needed to counteract extreme inequality”.

She goes on to say that Oxfam latest research, as pointed out in 2018 Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, shows that many countries are making good policy choices such as boosting minimum wage for the benefit of their citizens. Oxfam called on The World Bank to do ‘everything possible to encourage policies that help workers and reduce inequality’.

In its earlier report, Oxfam looked at government action on social spending, tax and labour rights to measure the commitment of governments to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Based on their analysis, Singapore was ranked among the bottom 10 countries alongside Bangladesh and Nigeria while Denmark, Germany and Finland make up the top three.