Worldwide inequality is continuing its decades-long climb, according to a report published Thursday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with the United States ranking high on the spectrum.
The organization, which surveyed economic disparity in its 34 member countries, found that income inequality is “at its highest since records began,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría said at a press conference announcing the findings.
The United States was near the high end of the inequality spectrum, followed by Israel, the United Kingdom and Greece. Only Turkey, Mexico and Chile were found to have higher levels of income inequality than the U.S.
Denmark was the least unequal country according to the report, as measured using the Gini index, a common measure of income distribution. Slovenia, the Slovak Republic and Norway also ranked near the low end of the spectrum.
Overall wealth is even more unevenly distributed than income, according to the report. Across all 34 countries studied, the bottom 40 percent of households were found to possess 3 percent of all wealth. In contrast, the top 10 percent laid claim to half of all wealth, and the top one percent held almost 20 percent of all wealth.
Gurría said the report’s findings demonstrate that inequality slows down economic growth. He urged OECD member countries to adopt more redistributive policies, saying that redirecting wealth flows would benefit not just low-income households but the economy as a whole.
“Well-designed, prudent redistribution does not harm growth,” he said. “In fact, it goes hand-in-hand with growth."
In addition to tax transfers, the OECD report recommends more investment in education, policies that promote remunerative employment, and measures that “remove barriers to female employment and career progression.” Bringing more women into the workforce and narrowing the pay gap was found to have a mitigating effect on income inequality.
In recent years, global elites have become increasingly concerned about income inequality. Last November, the World Economic Forum, which hosts the annual gathering of political and economic leaders in Davos, Switzerland, put out a report identifying income inequality as the number one trend to watch in 2015.