These Charts Show Growing Numbers of People Being Excluded From the Economy
By Saskia Sassen – November 11, 2014
The language of inequality is not enough to capture the extreme conditions we are confronting across much of the world. Inequality is a distribution, and it has long been present. What matters in the current period is the specific mix of conditions that have made it so extreme and expelled so many from their habitual life.
Extreme conditions often are caused by particular additional factors on top of the more common sources of inequality. For instance, the massive acquisitions of land in foreign countries by about 15 governments and 100 firms since 2006 has expelled small farmers and rural manufacturers from their land. Over 200 million hectares were acquired in this period. These foreign acquisitions are for mining, developing plantations and accessing water.
At the other end of the world, we have seen a very different kind of expulsion. From 2004 to 2014, the Federal Reserve estimates up to 14 million residential properties have been foreclosed, with about 13 million households thrown out. Again, this can hardly be captured in the language of inequality. It is, rather, a massive expulsion of people from their homes. It is also worth noting that such foreclosures are now happening in most European countries, especially in Germany.
Much of what constitutes daily life today may be more or less the same — even with a tendency towards growing losses for growing sectors of the population. But what we are seeing over the last decade in many parts of the world is that this ongoing routinized life can coexist with a variety of extreme conditions that are sharpening.
The extreme condition is precisely the one that can often become invisible. The simplest example is that the long-term unemployed disappear from our unemployment measures, as do the imprisoned. Also, the areas with high foreclosures cited above can be quite invisible to the average resident in a city, partly because there is nothing there or little reason to go to such areas — nobody to visit. Also easily rendered invisible are the vast numbers of rural households displaced by land grabs who leave for the slums of large cities, where they disappear and cease being evidence of that displacement.
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