Inequality highest in Middle East and North Africa, report says

Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated wealth gap worldwide, but especially in poor countries

Protesters hold up bread as a symbol of poverty and hunger during a demonstration in Tunisia's capital Tunis. Erin Clare Brown for The National

The Middle East and North Africa region is the most unequal in the world, according to the World Inequality Report 2022.

Published by the Paris-based World Inequality Lab, a global research initiative, the report provides insights into the distribution of income and wealth worldwide.

“Inequality varies significantly between the most equal region (Europe) and the most unequal region (the Middle East) of the world,” the report said.

“In Europe, the top 10 per cent income share is equal to around 36 per cent, whereas in the Middle East it reaches 58 per cent.”

While inequality has increased within most countries, inequality between countries has declined over the past two decades, the report found.

The report says the poorer half of the world's population possesses only two per cent of its wealth, while the middle 40 per cent own 22 per cent of the wealth and the top 10 per cent hold 76 per cent.

The report found that on average, the poorest half of the population owns assets worth $4,100 per adult and the top 10 per cent own $771,300 per adult.

Covid-19 impact on inequality

Global inequality has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020, the report found.

“The Covid crisis has exacerbated inequalities between the very wealthy and the rest of the population," said Lucas Chancel, lead author of report.

"Yet, in rich countries, government intervention prevented a massive rise in poverty. This was not the case in poor countries.

“This shows the importance of social states in the fight against poverty,”

Europe, Latin America, and South and South-East Asia recorded the largest drops in national income in 2020 (between -6 per cent and -7.6 per cent) while East Asia, where the pandemic began, succeeded in stabilising its 2020 income at the level of 2019.

One of the changes over the past 40 years, the report said, is that while many countries have become significantly richer, governments are becoming poorer.

If there is little to no wealth in the hands of governments, it has serious implications for states’ abilities to tackle domestic inequalities, the report said.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 2:29 PM