People wait to get registered at a hospital in India. Photo: Ranjan Rahi/Oxfam

Working For The Many

Public services fight inequality

Published: 3 April 2014
Emma Seery, Head of Inequality Policy & Campaigns, Oxfam GB

Public services like health and education are one of the strongest weapons in the fight against inequality.

They benefit everyone in society, but the poorest most of all. They mitigate the impact of skewed income distribution, and redistribute revenue by putting ‘virtual income’ into the pockets of the poorest women and men. Across OECD countries public services already provide the poorest people with the equivalent of 76 percent of their post-tax income.

Governments must urgently reform tax systems and increase public spending on free public services, such as health and education, to tackle inequality and prevent us being tipped irrevocably into a world that works for the few and not the many.

Key recommendations

  • Prioritize increased public spending on and delivery of health and education services, to fight poverty and inequality at a national level.
  • Prioritize policies and practice that increase financing for free public health and education to tackle inequality, and also redistribute and tackle inequality themselves.
  • Finance health and education from general progressive taxation rather than through private and/or optional insurance schemes, or user fees and out-of-pocket payments.
  • Refrain from implementing unproven and unworkable market reforms to public health and education systems, and expand public sector rather than private sector delivery of essential services.

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