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US doing ‘very badly’ in combating inequality - here’s how other countries compare

CNBC International 2017-07-17 17:12:43

The U.S. is doing "very badly" at tackling inequality, and President Donald Trump's tax reforms, if enacted, could see the country sink below Greece and some third world countries in the equality stakes, according to new research from Oxfam.

Despite being the richest country in the world, the U.S.'s commitment to social spending, labor policy and tax reforms falls well below that of other countries, particularly those within The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Oxfam's new Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRI), released Monday, ranks the U.S. 23rd out of 152 countries for its commitment to stemming and re-balancing national inequality levels. That's behind Portugal, Slovenia, and South Africa. Overhauls of the country's healthcare policies and tax landscape could see the country slump further, past the likes of Greece (25th), Argentina (26th) and Hungary (28th), the report suggests.

"The USA is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, but its level of inequality is also the highest among major industrial countries, leaving tens of millions of working people impoverished," the report says.

"Massive tax cuts proposed by President Trump would make this worse. A lot of social spending disproportionately benefits the wealthy, and spending focused on the poor like Medicaid could soon see draconian cuts that would strip millions of people of their health insurance."

The report, conducted in collaboration with Development Finance International, also points to "worsening" labor policy and insufficient minimum wage thresholds. It claims that under the Trump administration, these inequalities will be neglected while businesses benefit from tax cuts.

"The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is well below the $10.60 per hour needed for a family of four to reach the federal poverty line, and there is little possibility of a raise in the coming years. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is rolling back worker protections, including safety regulations, the right to organize, and overtime pay," the report says.

It adds that the U.S. plays a significant role as a corporate tax haven and/or secrecy jurisdiction, and said its tax ranking would likely slip lower when this is properly accounted for in future indices.

European countries, in particular, emerged as among the most committed to tackling inequality, but the report highlights that even the best-performing countries, and their leaders, must maintain and improve their policies to reflect changes in society.

"For most rich countries, the main body of policies measured by the index was introduced in a different period of history, when significant action in these areas was broadly accepted as the right thing to do and paid dividends in terms of social and economic progress.

"Today, in many countries, political support for these measures has eroded."

Below are the best - and worst - countries, according to the report: