Reducing Inequalities

A pattern of rising economic, social and political inequalities threatens to undermine progress in tackling the poverty that harms people in rich and poor countries alike. Inequalities exist in all areas, from unevenly shared wealth to ingrained discrimination on the basis of gender, and towards those living in the poorest communities or at society's margins. These inequalities undermine citizen engagement and fuel civil unrest, violence and conflict.

Reducing inequalities logo

Inequalities in 21st century

Countries experiencing rapid economic growth – such as China and India – have witnessed growing inequality. Apparent economic growth successes in some of the lowest-income countries in Africa have also been very unevenly distributed, with benefits accruing to a small group of elite, privileged people and places, while failing to contribute to broader livelihoods and wellbeing.

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IDS' contribution to reducing inequalities

Our work aims to contribute to reducing these inequalities by providing and sharing new knowledge and evidence to identify their underlying causes and the progressive policies and practices that can help bring about transformative change.

2016 World Social Science Report on Inequalities

In 2016 IDS' Director, Melissa Leach and Director of Research, John Gaventa, co-directed the World Social Science Report ‘Challenging Inequalities – Pathways to a Just World.

Graffiti on a wall of children looking up

Read more about our work on inequalities in our latest Annual Review 2017

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Beatriz Aguirre Martinez More details

Photo of Cathérine Müller, Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction research team More details

Photo of Danny Burns, IDS Participation, Power and Social Change Team leader More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

Photo of Deepta Chopra, IDS Governance and Gender / Sexuality Research Fellow More details

More details

Gauthier Marchais, Research Fellow in the Conflict and Violence research cluster at IDS More details

Photo of Giulia Mascagni More details

Photo of Jackie Shaw, Research Fellow in the Participation research cluster More details

Jalia Kangave, IDS research fellow More details

Photo of Jerker Edstrom More details

Photo of Jodie Thorpe, Globalisation research fellow More details

Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mora photo More details

Photo of Keetie Roelen, Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Protection, IDS More details

Photo of Lyla Mehta More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Photo of Melissa Leach, IDS Director More details

Photo of Mick Moore, Professorial Fellow with Governance team More details

Photo of Patricia Justino, IDS Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Research Fellow More details

Photo of Pauline Oosterhoff, Research Fellow, Participation Power and Social Change More details

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Assessment of the Impact of Gender Equality Programming on Humanitarian Outcomes

This project will develop understanding of how and under what conditions GEP has or has not contributed to improved humanitarian outcomes. It will accumulate an evidence base that can be harnessed to inform decision makers' discussions in the area of GEP, and inform the design of gender-responsive humanitarian interventions. More details

Balancing unpaid care work and paid work

The 'Balancing unpaid care work and paid work: successes, challenges and lessons for women's economic empowerment programmes and policies' project aims to create knowledge about how women's economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. More details

Coptic Culture Conservation Collective

The Coptic Culture Conservation Collective initiative will create a narrative and visual archive of contemporary Coptic intangible cultural heritage. More details

Cutting Edge Programme on Gender and Social Movements

The BRIDGE Edge Programme on Gender and Social Movements aims to inspire and support collaborative approaches to mobilisation around shared equity and justice concerns. More details

Disadvantaged Groups and Social Mobility

Bruno Martorano and Patricia Justino will analyse group-based inequalities in Mexico and write a paper on the topic of ‘The impact of the recent crisis in Mexico on economic and political inequalities among minorities’ that discusses and advances an argument about patterns and trends. More details

Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Change for Gender Equality (EMERGE)

Our goal is to enable stronger leadership for working with boys and men to promote gender equality. We will do this by gathering, inter-relating and analysing evidence and lessons. These will be strategically disseminated in targeted and accessible formats for improved learning, policy and practice. More details

Highlighting the Invisibility of Unpaid Care

This is a three year project explores why unpaid care work is merited little attention in development policy and programming. We are taking an action learning approach to engaging policy actors on unpaid care, tracking the effects, successes and failures of our policy influencing activities. More details

Informal Work and Wellbeing in Urban South Asia: Who Succeeds, Who Fails and Under What Conditions?

This study proposes an exploration of the determinants of wellbeing for informal workers living in informal settlements across a diverse set of urbanising localities in Bangladesh and India. We will present empirical evidence on what patterns and gradations of wellbeing success and failure are emerging for women and men engaged in informal work and living in informal settlements. More details

Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women's Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Carework

Market systems programmes are increasingly recognising the important role that women play in market activity and including women’s economic empowerment and gender equality objectives. However, unpaid care work is a significant and regularly overlooked factor which affects women’s economic, political and social activities. More details

Men, Masculinities and HIV

The Men, Masculinities and HIV project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) programme, funded by Sida. This work stream aims to influence norms and institutions at global and local levels to more effectively tackle the challenge of achieving gender equality, and particularly looking at the role of men in this process. More details

National Health Systems From a Comparative Perspective: Studies of Local, Regional and Participatory Management (Decentralisation, Participation and Equity in the English NHS)

This study examines the Brazilian National Health System (SUS) in comparison with the National Health Service (NHS) in England, in order to develop proposals for reform towards an effective, universal, quality health system in Brazil. More details

Participation and Gender Justice: Political Empowerment

This project is part of the Gender, Power and Sexuality Programme, funded by Sida. The project is working on two parallel initiatives, firstly, exploring political empowerment programmes for women and secondly, engaging with the international community to challenge and expose gendered forms of violence, particularly when this is politically motivated. More details

Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium

Pathways is a research and communication programme which seeks to discover where women are achieving real gains despite or because of policy and practice. It looks at how this has happened, and aims to make these pathways visible so that we can build on these revealed successes. More details

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change is developing a framework to analyse alternative pathways that link different forms of technological innovation, and evaluate resulting structural change and inclusion outcomes in low-income countries. More details

Sexuality and Local Voices

The Sexuality and Development project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) Programme, funded by Sida. More details

Unequal Voices: The Politics of Accountability for Equity in Health Systems

The Unequal Voices project - Vozes Desiguais in Portuguese - examines the politics of accountability in health systems in Brazil and Mozambique, exploring how accountability can be used to deliver better health services for citizens everywhere. More details

Voices for Change 'Gender Hub'

IDS knowledge-sharing professionals are developing a prototype e-hub for gender experts in Nigeria More details

Womens Economic Inequality and VAWG consultancy

In this consultancy, Marinella Leone is developing evidence to support arguments and recommendations made in the ActionAid report exploring the interlinkages between women’s economic inequality/ neoliberal policies and Violence against women and girls (VAWG). More details

Youth in Fragile Settings

This project aims to build an evidence base that maps the role young people – particularly young women – have played in contributing to processes that sought to or did address fragility as well as examine gaps and challenges with the ultimate aim of increasing the voice and participation of young people around the world. More details

View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


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The Relationship between Perceptions of Inequality and Political Participation: The Case of the Western Balkans

IDS Working Paper 509 (2018)

This paper discusses how disparities and in particular perceptions of inequality may have influenced political participation in Western Balkans over the last years. The arrival of the international crisis in the last quarter of 2008 has had not only economic but also significant political consequences on the region. More details

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What Are the Implications of Ageing and Demographic Change in Rwanda?

IDS Policy Briefing 150 (2018)

Having made rapid improvements in life expectancy and fertility as a result of significant investments in the health system and reductions in poverty, Rwanda faces the positive prospects of a ‘demographic dividend’. However, the projected growth in the number of older people over the next 30 years will present significant challenges. More details

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Bringing Together Voices to Address Climate Change Uncertainty in the Indian Sundarbans

IDS Policy Briefing 149 (2018)

The majority of the five million people that live in the deltaic Indian Sundarbans face continuous uncertainties in relation to their shelter, livelihoods, and health. Climate change is one of the key factors aggravating this situation. More details

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Gender and Intersecting Inequalities in Local Government in South Asia

IDS Working Paper 507 (2018)

This paper is an evidence review of how intersecting forms of inequalities influence women’s political participation and representation at the local level in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. More details

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How Do We Research Tax Morale at the Subnational Level?

IDS Working Paper 506 (2018)

One of the most effective ways of increasing voluntary tax compliance is by improving tax morale. Several studies have been undertaken to examine why some individuals pay taxes while others do not. While many of these studies have been conducted at the national level, there is an increasing body of research at the subnational level. More details

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Navigating Power and Intersectionality to Address Inequality

IDS Working Paper 504 (2017)

This paper examines the drivers of inequality and social exclusion, especially discrimination, with a focus on how they intersect at the levels of family, community and local government institutions. The paper reviews current literature and emerging research, drawing on empirical work being carried out by the authors in Central and Eastern Europe, the UK and Africa. More details

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No Time to Rest: Women’s Lived Experiences of Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work

Synthesis Report (2017)

This report provides evidence on the lived experiences of women in low-income families, as they strive to balance their paid work and unpaid care work responsibilities. It presents the findings of a mixed-methods research project carried out in India, Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania during 2015–17. More details

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Biocultural Approaches: Opportunities for Building More Inclusive Environmental Governance

IDS Working Paper 502 (2017)

A significant portion of the world’s remaining biodiversity and agrobiodiversity is in the hands of local and indigenous communities who tend to be politically marginalised and thus excluded from formal environmental governance schemes. More details

Supporting the Poorest and Most Vulnerable in CLTS Programmes

Supporting the Poorest and Most Vulnerable in CLTS Programmes

CLTS Knowledge Hub Learning Paper (2017)

This Learning Paper discusses ways the poorest and most vulnerable can be supported both through strengthening the CLTS process and the introduction of support mechanisms. It focuses on strengthening the CLTS process, identifying and targeting people for support, the sequencing of support mechanisms, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and the different support mechanisms and the associated risks. More details

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‘My Work Never Ends’: Women’s Experiences of Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work through WEE Programming in India

IDS Working Paper 494 (2017)

This paper seeks to lay bare the contours and consequences of the relationship between paid work and unpaid care work for women in low-income households, in order to better understand the relationship between women’s participation in paid work and ‘economic empowerment’. More details

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‘How Can It Be a Problem If You Need Them Both?’ Women Juggling Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania

IDS Working Paper 495 (2017)

This paper summarises the findings of mixed-methods research that was carried out in Tanzania as part of the ‘Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work: Successes, Challenges and Lessons for Women’s Economic Empowerment Programmes and Policies’ research project (2015–17). It reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members participating in women’s economic empowerment (WEE) programmes across four sites in the rural districts of Korogwe and Lushoto in Tanga region. More details

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Automation, Women, and the Future of Work

Impact Initiative Rapid Response Briefing 1 (2017)

Will women benefit from the rapid automation and digitisation that is set to change the world of work as we know it? How can we ensure that women’s economic interests are brought into focus, and that debates on the future of work are not about the changing relationship between man and machine, but between people and machine? More details

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Accountability in Health Systems and the Potential of mHealth

IDS Working Paper 490 (2017)

The rapid spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs) (and of mobile phones in particular) across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has generated considerable excitement in development circles regarding their potential to revolutionise service delivery in health systems. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participatory statistics to measure prevalence in bonded labour hotspots in Nepal: Report on findings of the baseline study

Forced labour of adults and children in the agricultural sector in Nepal is a well-documented problem. This report details a baseline study of bonded labour in three districts in South East Nepal with documented evidence of adults and children working through a system of agricultural bonded labour known as Harwa-Charwa. More details

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Shame, Poverty and Social Protection

IDS Working Paper 489 (2017)

Despite long-standing conceptual considerations of shame in understanding poverty and debates about its moral, social and emotional qualities, the role of shame in poverty reduction policies remains largely unexplored. More details

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The Role of Social and Political Action in Advancing Women’s Rights, Empowerment, and Accountability to Women

IDS Working Paper 488 (2017)

Through the lens of four case studies focused on women’s political participation (Palestine and Sierra Leone), and the passage of domestic violence law (Brazil and South Africa), this paper looks at the role of social and political action in advancing women’s rights. More details

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Making Karnali Employment Programme More Care-Responsive

This note examines the Karnali Employment Programme's aim to achieve women's economic empowerment that generates a 'double boon'. More details

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Care Responsiveness of Livelihoods Programming: The Enterprise Development Programme, Oxfam Nepal

This Programmatic Note seeks to understand how women's economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a 'double boon', looking at the work of Oxfam Nepal's EDP programme. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 483, 'Africa’s Youth Employment
Challenge: New Perspectives'.

Africa’s Youth Employment Challenge: New Perspectives

IDS Bulletin 48.3 (2017)

Who are the youth and what is the problem? Are entrepreneurship and self-employment the solution? And what about youth aspirations? Such questions are addressed in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, drawing from the literature on how development research affects policy and noting that it says little about how young researchers move into policy engagement. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Rapid Response Briefing 17, 'Blockchain for Development – Hope or Hype?'

Blockchain for Development – Hope or Hype?

IDS Rapid Response Briefing 17 (2017)

Blockchain technology has been heralded by many as the next big thing. The potential use of blockchains has attracted widespread attention from the media, the IMF, the UN, and the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor. More details

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Poverty is also a psychosocial problem

20 Nov 2017
By Keetie Roelen

Citizen Accountability in a time of Facebook

14 Nov 2017
By John Gaventa

Anti-corruption measures could have saved lives in Mexico City

26 Oct 2017
By Beatriz Aguirre Martinez

Robots against Slavery?

18 Oct 2017
By Pauline Oosterhoff

Child marriage campaigns are missing the point

11 Oct 2017
By Nicola Ansell
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