A recent article in the National Post talked about income inequalities in the corporate sector but what stood out were some glaringly outrageous statistics.
* In Canada the top 100 CEOs of publicly traded companies earned an average of $10 million in 2017, or about 197 times more than the average worker.
* According to a 2017 Oxfam report, the top eight billionaires own as much combined wealth as “the poorest half of the human race,”
* Canada’s highest-paid CEOs are estimated to earn what an average worker makes in a year by lunchtime Wednesday.
* A 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Studies said that three individuals: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people.
These are stark reminders of global wealth inequality, but, rather than outrage at the obvious unfairness of this situation it is usually seen as a ringing endorsement of capitalism. Especially in America, wealthy people are held up on pedestals for their hard work and tenacity. There is little argument that Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs, et al, have developed systems that have, arguably, made life better for humanity and that they deserve all the spoils their ideas have earned them, but what is lost in the equation is that all multimillion dollar companies employ much of the rest of humanity, where, by these metrics, most of us are nothing more than indentured slaves.
That may seem like a harsh indictment but when you consider that CEOs often make more than 200 times that of their lowliest employee, who may not even earn a living wage, there is a total lack of respect for the workers, who arguably, keep the company afloat. Of course, this is perpetuated because for every custodial, receptionist, or call centre job that is vacated there are many more waiting in line to fill the void.
But what if workers, and consumers (the rest of us) for that matter could muster enough moral outrage to reverse this situation? It seems like the easiest thing to do, but sadly, capitalism has such a firm grip on us it turns out to be the most difficult.
Let’s take one example out of many others that could be used: (these are hypothetical and not meant to necessarily disparage the companies mentioned) If you saw what Uber or Walmart CEOs were making while many of their employees were barely eking out a living, and you wanted to voice your displeasure, you might take to Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get your thousands of “friends” and followers to boycott the company, until they began paying their workers a decent wage.
When you think about it, workers and consumers really do have all the power to change things for the better but with all the injustices, we are bombarded with daily on social media sites it is interesting how little traction they get compared to cat videos. Unfortunately, making sure everyone knows how great your life may or may not be usually trumps action to bring about meaningful change in society.