Taxing the super rich: A tool to close the gender gap

By: Magdalena Sepulveda, Member of the Independent Commission on Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) and Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

„We've lost everything,” Ana says, facing her sister Rosa's hopeless gaze. Both women are in their 70s and live in Valparaiso, Chile, which was ravaged last February by the deadliest forest fire in history. At least 133 people died and many are still missing.

These sisters are domestic workers and have lost the home they inherited from their parents. Within minutes, the efforts of two generations were consumed by the flames. Like many women without access to a formal financial system, they lost their life savings in cash.

Record-breaking heat waves, droughts, floods and devastating wildfires have disproportionately affected women like Rosa and Ana around the world. In the past year, we have seen news of devastating fires in the United States, Greece, Nepal, Colombia and Spain. Serious fires have also occurred in Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. In Brazil, vast tracts of tropical forest have been consumed.

In Africa, from Equatorial Guinea to coastal cities in South Africa, wildfires have forced the evacuation of many areas.

In February, wildfires in Australia killed livestock, destroyed property and forced 2,000 people to flee towns near Melbourne. It was a reminder of the 'Black Summer' fires of 2019/2020, which devastated the scale of Turkey, killing 33 people and three billion animals.

Everywhere, the worsening climate crisis, coupled with poor planning and inadequate adaptation measures, environmental degradation and extreme weather events are alarmingly intensifying disasters and the number of victims. Their unequal outcomes are heavily marked by gender.

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Women are disproportionately affected as they face specific, interrelated risks due to structural discrimination and traditional roles. Every aspect of the disaster is marked by gender differences, from exclusion from constraints caused by housework and caregiving work, to limited capacity for recovery.

Unequal access to economic resources, lack of decision-making capacity within their families and communities, and limited experience in political participation often result in limited access to aid and support to rebuild their lives after disasters.

Investing in efforts to close the gender gap is essential to increase women's resilience in the face of climate change-induced disasters. Unfortunately, as the United Nations (UN) has warned, there is an alarming funding gap in achieving gender equality goals. The gap is staggering: $360 billion is needed annually to meet the commitments countries made under the 2030 Agenda for Development.

At a time when many countries in the Global South struggle with empty coffers, the financing needed to end structural inequality requires greater international cooperation. Today, only 4% of all bilateral aid is allocated to gender equality as its primary objective. However, this is not the only alternative.

As a member of the Independent Commission on the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), we argue that all countries, especially developing countries, can increase their fiscal space by taxing the wealthiest: corporations and super-millionaires.

A key proposal is to establish a global 2% minimum tax on the wealth of the super-rich. My colleague at ICRICT, renowned economist Gabriel Zugman, presented this proposal to the finance ministers of the G20 who gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in February. Inspired by a global minimum tax on corporations, the measure would apply to fewer than 3,000 individuals and raise $250 billion a year.

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Taxing the super rich, who currently pay almost no tax, would make a huge difference. Adding a global minimum tax for multinational corporations would require an additional $500 billion to fight climate change, close the gender gap and invest in projects that empower women.

In the midst of countless crises, wars, high inflation rates and high debt, investing in gender equality has ceased to be a priority for many governments. So, as we commemorate International Women's Day this March, we must remember that social progress cannot be achieved without gender equality. Recognizing women as important players in development strategies is a path towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable society. Making the super-rich, many of whom have benefited from the crisis, the passage of the bill a tool that could have a huge impact on social justice.

*) Denial

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