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WSI Citi Foundation COVID Recovery Challenge, SDG 10WSI

Design a product, service or initiative that can help grow the income of those hit hardest by the COVID-19 economic crisis: the lowest-earning workers.

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SDG 10 challenges us to reduce inequalities, and one of the most transformative ways to do that is to grow the income of a country's lowest-earning workers—and shrink the wealth gap. Increasing the income of the lowest-earning workers will also boost the segment of the population that has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 health crisis, pandemic-related job loss, and economic recession.

In 2018, the highest earning 20% of U.S. households brought in more than 52% of all U.S. income—meaning that they earned more than the other 80% of households combined, reflecting a household wealth gap that had more than doubled in just one generation.

While the U.S. is among the nations with the highest income inequality, however, it's not alone. The widening wealth gap is a global threat – and advancing SDG 10 means finding ways to help the lowest-earning workers of all countries.

The sudden economic contraction experienced around the world due to COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem of inequality. Moreover, it's shown clearly how inequalities relate to the racial wealth gap. In the U.S., for example, people of color are experiencing much higher joblessness rates right now and that will only widen the racial wealth gap.

How can federal, state and local governments, large corporations, charitable institutions, or philanthropies tackle growing inequalities? Some suggest more investment in education and job training, transportation, housing, and healthcare. Others suggest raising taxes on the wealthiest households and using that revenue to increase direct assistance in the form of tax credits or cash payments. And there are many who believe that ownership—entrepreneurship—is the surest pathway to increasing household wealth, particularly for those who fall below the national median income.

Income and wealth inequalities reflect a complex set of societal issues, including policy divisions, educational inequities, systemic discrimination and bias. But lifting the incomes of those below the median ultimately benefits everyone.

The Citi Foundation supported challenge asks you to come up with a BIG idea to raise the incomes of a country's lowest-earning workers and promote a more equitable society.

Some thought-starters:

  • How did COVID-19 highlight the inequities of income inequality?
  • Does the unemployment crisis we're in right now offer a unique opportunity to address inequalities? Could a short-term focus on income replacement level the playing field in some way? What about more long-term approaches to jobs creation and pay equity?
  • Do immigrants and migrant workers increase inequalities by pushing down wages or do they fill a need and have a positive impact on unemployment and productivity? Can a country's immigration policies impact the wealth gap?
  • Would broadening access to the internet help address inequities? How could it help create jobs or improve education?
  • Will rapid advances in technology eliminate more jobs or will innovation generate entirely new jobs? How do we ensure that low- and middle-skilled workers don't see their opportunities shrink while highly skilled workers benefit?

Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant communities. The Citi Foundation's "More than Philanthropy" approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.

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“Supporting the growth of low-income and underserved communities is critical as COVID-19 deepens existing systemic inequities. The Citi Foundation is committed to supporting economic recovery efforts that aid the most vulnerable.”

Florencia Spangaro / Director of Programs, Citi Foundation

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