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.

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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.

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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 IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Mary Wickenden 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

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 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

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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‘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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How Do State–Business Relations Shape Sustainable Development?

IDS Policy Briefing 141 (2017)

The achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals will depend on the ways in which states and businesses engage with one another. While state–business interactions can take many forms, they inherently involve processes of negotiation through which actors in both camps pursue their own interests. More details

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The Political Economy of Economic Empowerment: Bringing Politics and Society Back In

IDS Working Paper 484 (2017)

Economic empowerment programmes designed to mitigate inequalities are increasingly becoming an important part of the portfolio for governments in low-income countries. More details

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Reframing Gender Justice in an Unequal, Volatile World: IDS’ Directions for Future Research on Gender and Sexuality in Development

At a time of major changes in global politics and trends, and major shifts in international development following the establishment of the global Sustainable Development Goals in Agenda 2030, the Gender and Sexuality cluster at the Institute of Development Studies engaged in collaborative discussions and consultations over nine months with partner organisations, networks, external experts and policymakers. More details

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Connecting Unpaid and Paid Care Work to Progress Gender Equality

IDS Policy Briefing 130 (2017)

Globally, paid care work, such as care for children or the elderly is a fast-growing sector of the market economy. Yet, it remains undervalued by governments and citizens in both monetary and societal terms which has damaging implications for women’s economic empowerment and gender relations more broadly. More details

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Reframing Gender Justice in an Unequal, Volatile World: IDS’ Directions for Future Research on Gender and Sexuality in Development

We here aim to outline priority directions for future research on gender and sexuality in development, which are needed to advance our understanding of gender and sexuality in an increasingly unequal, polarised and volatile world. More details

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Inclusive Urbanisation and Cities in the Twenty-First Century

IDS Evidence Report 220 (2017)

In academic and policy discourse, urbanisation and cities are currently receiving a great deal of attention, and rightly so. Both have been central to the enormous transformation the world has been going through during the past few centuries. More details

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Equality, Security and Sustainability: In Search of Virtuous Circles

IDS Evidence Report 219 (2017)

Many people and institutions are conducting research on inequality, security, or environmental sustainability. Some are looking at two of these issues together. None, to our knowledge, are examining all three simultaneously, or looking in detail at the interactions between them. This matters. More details

This is the cover to IDS Bulletin 47.6, 'Engaged Excellence'.

Engaged Excellence

IDS Bulletin 47.6 (2016)

Who defines what good quality research is? How, why and who should we co-construct knowledge with? What counts as impact? How do we build enduring partnerships? The articles in this IDS Bulletin aim to answer these questions based on IDS’ approach of ‘engaged excellence’. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 472A, 'States, Markets and Society –
New Relationships for a New Development Era'.

States, Markets and Society – New Relationships for a New Development Era

IDS Bulletin 47.2A (2016)

‘How does change happen?’ and ‘How should change happen and how can it be enabled?’ are key questions analysed in this IDS Bulletin, drawing on the Institute of Development Studies’ reflections on States, Markets and Society as a theme of its 50th Anniversary year. More details

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State–Business Relations Beyond Growth: Bringing in Development

IDS Evidence Report 215 (2016)

The signatories of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have called on a wide range of businesses ‘to apply their creativity and innovation’ to address sustainable development challenges. Yet the role of business in contributing to development depends profoundly on its interaction with the state. This paper asks how states and businesses interact in different contexts to shape development outcomes. More details