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Inequality in the Age of Globalization | Branko Milanović

Within the framework of the P.W. Segers Chair – named after the leading figure from the post-war Christian workers’ movement – UCSIA, together with the Faculty of Applied Economics, the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy (CSB) and the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), welcomed Prof. Branko Milanović from 19 to 21 September 2017, for a doctoral seminar, lecture, and panel debate.

Due to their strong economic growth, densely populated Asian countries such as China or India have been able to keep up with the income growth of Europe and North America. Many people worldwide now earn the median world income. On their left they find a group of 10% of world citizens in absolute poverty; on their right, a small group of a few % super rich. By 2050, inequality between countries will decrease further, but inequality within poor and rich countries will increase. That has destabilizing social and political consequences.

The ‘elephant curve’ shows that the income of the lower middle class in the USA and the United Kingdom is stagnating. It feels surpassed by the working population in the up-and-coming Asia, which is getting richer, and fears that their jobs may disappear due to cheap export or outsourcing of production. According to some, this explains the populist voting behaviour for Brexit and Trump.

The guest speaker believes that traditional instruments for income redistribution, such as progressive taxes, social insurance and transfers, no longer work. He is an advocate of equal opportunities, also worldwide, and expects great investment in education and training or tax benefits for the poor rather than bonuses for wealthy shareholders. This is how poor people in poor countries obtain the keys to a higher income.

New migration waves suffer low ratings in public opinion in the North due to many reasons – and fears – yet Prof. Milanović advocates circular migration with an intermediary statute of citizenship. It protects the wages and working conditions of migrants on the basis of multilateral agreements, but by limiting the length of stay, imposing higher taxes or lower social benefits, it implies that the migrants do not have the same rights as the residents of the country where they work. The public and panel reflected on this view, and some had a hard time with the utilitarian nature of the proposal. In Belgium, 100,000 migrants work illegally in low-paid jobs and without social protection. In the Gulf countries, ‘openness to migration’ almost amounts to tolerating slavery. Governments, employers and employees accept increased migration under conditions such as the ILO Fair Recruitment Initiative.

The ILO Global Compact on Migration (2018) is based on the principle that social protection and labour rights must not differ between national and foreign employees.

Read the summary of the proceedings (pdf-document).

CONTRIBUTORS: Luc Cortebeeck (International Labour Organisation), Mery Ferrando Gutierrez (UCL), Branko Milanović (City University of New York), Bogdan Vanden Berghe (11.11.11) and the rector, teachers, and doctoral students from the University of Antwerp: Bea Cantillon and Koen Decancq (CSB Herman Deleeck), Tom De Herdt (IOB), Guido Erreygers (Faculty of Applied Economics), Rosana Martinelli (IOB), Stefaan Marysse (emeritus IOB), Lorena Zardo Trindade (CSB Herman Deleeck), Herman Van Goethem (rector) and Sunčica Vujić (Faculty of Applied Economics).