Inequality and globalisation

poverty workshop

Associate Professor Gaurav Datt, Professor Chris Barrett, Professor Francois Bourguignon, Dr Rebecca Valenzuela, and Professor Jakob Madsen.

Inequality in countries should be considered of utmost importance as the world continues to move towards greater globalisation, according to an internationally renowned pioneer in the measurement and analysis of poverty and inequality.

Professor Francois Bourguignon, former chief economist and first vice-president of the World Bank, visited Monash University to participate in a two-day workshop about poverty and inequality.

He also presented a public lecture, "The Globalisation of Inequality", on May 21 at Media House at The Age in the Melbourne CBD, where he addressed some of the instruments available to policymakers on how to overcome poverty and inequality.

The workshop and public lecture, hosted by the Monash University Centre for Development Economics, was the first of its kind in Australia. The workshop featured, along with Professor Bourguignon, some of the most distinguished Australian-based academics and their latest findings and analysis on poverty and inequality in the region.

"Global development must keep equalising standards of living across countries, but it will be sustainable only if inequality can be kept under control within countries," Professor Bourguignon, said.

As an expert on the measurement and analysis of income distribution trends, he regards the increasing gap between rich and poor in Australia as fairly comparable with trends in the US, Britain and France.

He observes that the standard of living in Brazil, China and India is approaching that of America, Australia and Europe.

"Globalisation has had contradictory effects on inequality, but the growth of emerging economies has contributed to reducing global inequality in recent times," he said.

Professor Bourguignon points out that in the past two decades, more than 500 million people have escaped extreme poverty. At the same time, however, his research also concludes that inequality in several countries, particularly in the more developed ones, has surged, creating social injustice and unexpected tensions between regions, sectors and population groups within these economies.

Workshop organiser and Monash-based inequality expert, Dr Rebecca Valenzuela, of the Department of Economics believes the inequality finding can be taken in an even wider context.  

"We should recognise also that inequality in Australia, and other advanced economies, may be an offshoot of the profound changes in family dynamics and organisation that can make certain population groups more vulnerable to poverty and experience significantly lower levels of long-term welfare.

“Of particular concern is the wellbeing of children on one side and the older folks on the other. My own studies have found increased incidence of child poverty in some pockets of the population; other studies have also shown increased vulnerability of seniors to food insecurity, poverty and diminished welfare in general,” she said.

Photo: Associate Professor Gaurav Datt, Deputy-Director of the Monash Centre for Development Economics,  Professor Chris Barrett, Associate Director, Economic Development Programs at Cornell University in the US, Workshop Organiser and The Age writer, Dr Rebecca Valenzuela, from the Department of Economics, Professor Francois Bourguignon and Professor Jakob Madsen, who is the Xiaokai Yang Professor of Business and Economics at Monash University.