Oxfam Cymru’s Blueprint for Change

Oxfam Economics, Inequality, Poverty in the UK

The Welsh Assembly election in May 2016 offers a significant opportunity for every political party to transparently commit themselves to create a more equal Wales, within a more equal world. Carys Mair Thomas, Head of Oxfam Cymru, highlights some of the key issues and policies contained within the report Even It Up: A Blueprint for Change, published today.

Oxfam’s vision is of a world without poverty; Oxfam Cymru works with others to make this vision a reality here in Wales. But there is work to be done. Economic inequality and poverty blight this world and Wales is no exception, with women suffering the most. Meanwhile, climate change is playing havoc with the weather worldwide, destroying livelihoods, and we continue to undervalue our potential contribution to the refugee crisis.

Economic inequality and poverty blight this world and Wales is no exception, with women suffering the most.These issues affect communities in Wales, as they do around the globe, and it is crucial that the incoming Welsh Government places them at the heart of its programme of work. Indeed, the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 demands this, specifically in relation to the goal of delivering a more equal Wales, enabling
people to reach their full potential.

Economic inequality faces all of us. Currently, the 80 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half . To overcome poverty and create a just society for everyone, we need to challenge the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few – to even it up.

In Wales, the wealthiest 16% of people now have as much wealth as the rest of the population put together. The gap between the richest and poorest continues to grow, while the extent of low pay in Wales has remained unchanged for a decade. One in four Welsh workers is currently paid less than the Living Wage (as defined by the Living Wage Foundation – £8.25 an hour outside London).

Today in Wales 23% of households live in relative poverty, which means they struggle to afford the basics, like putting a hot meal on the table. Depressingly, half of these households already have one salary coming in, disproving the much quoted adage that a person can work themselves – and their family – out of poverty.
Wales has a disproportionately high usage of food banks… with three days of emergency food provided to 85,875 Welsh people in 2014-15.

Against this backdrop of poverty and low pay, the rise in food bank use must be addressed. Wales has a disproportionately high usage of food banks compared with other UK regions, with three days of emergency food provided to 85,875 Welsh people in 2014-15.

Given that women comprise 62% of all UK workers who are paid less than the Living Wage, it would be remiss to ignore the gender dimension of economic inequality and poverty. Evidently, women are more vulnerable to poverty and the continued existence of the gender pay gap, currently at 19% for full and part time workers in the UK, draws attention to the economic inequality that women experience. This is shaped by their
position in the labour market where they are less likely to be in ‘decent work’. In Wales, women occupy 80% of all part time jobs, 75% of which are in retail, administration, personal services and other typically low paid occupations.

Wales does not exist in isolation and we must be mindful of our contribution and impact on the world. Over the past 10 years, the number of people affected by humanitarian crises across the world has almost doubled. Wales’ consumption of natural resources is far beyond what its population size can justify, exceeding the safe limits for consumption of CO2 by 410%.

Simultaneously, we are facing the greatest refugee crisis of our time. At the end of 2014 there were almost 60 million forcibly displaced people. Alongside other developed nations, Wales must ensure that those fleeing violence and persecution are able to find a safe and welcoming place to live.

Oxfam Cymru’s Blueprint for Change offers up solutions to these challenges, including:

  • the appointment of a Deputy Minister within the Welsh Government’s Finance Department who will dedicate wholesale resources to tackle poverty and reduce economic inequality;
  • establish Wales as a Living Wage Nation, incentivising employers to provide decent work;
  • dramatically reduce our CO2 consumption emissions; and
  • establish Wales as the first Nation of Sanctuary, known for its proactive and welcoming policies and practices for refugees.

The full implementation of these recommendations between now and 2020 may well support the next Welsh Government to become a world-leading exemplar that other governments would seek to emulate.

Read more

Photo: Oxfam’s Even It Up Bus in Cardiff Bay, October 2015. Credit: Oxfam

Author: Carys Thomas
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.