Education is key to reducing spread of inequality

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A RECENT study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concludes that income inequality is bad for economic growth. This challenges a long-held belief that inequality is an inevitable phase in economic development.

Low levels of educational attainment by the poor are perpetuated in unequal societies in terms both of the quantity (years) of education and its quality. Thus, the report concludes, “inequality significantly shapes the opportunities for education and upward mobility of disadvantaged individuals”. It warns this applies to 40% of the population of OECD countries and not just the very poor.

The policy implications of this are important. Firstly, policies to reduce inequality can also help to increase economic growth, but only if “these policies are well designed and implemented”. Secondly, policy makers need to address the education needs of the lower middle classes, not just the very poor. Combating poverty through welfare grants to the poorest is not enough. Policies must focus also on helping the poor and lower-middle classes gain access to quality education.

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