Poorer countries tend to have much higher levels of pay inequality than richer nations. In sub-Saharan Africa, the bottom 50% of workers receive only 3.3% of total pay, compared with the European Union, where the same group receives 22.9% of the total income paid to workers.
Nearly half of all global pay is scooped up by only 10% of workers, according to the International Labour Organization, while the lowest-paid 50% receive only 6.4%.
The lowest-paid 20% – about 650 million workers – get less than 1% of total pay, a figure that has barely moved in 13 years, ILO analysis found. It used labour income figures from 189 countries between 2004 and 2017, the latest available data.
A worker in the top 10% receives $7,445 a month (£5,866), while a worker in the bottom 10% gets only $22. The average pay of the bottom half of the world’s workers is $198 a month.
Roger Gomis, an economist in the ILO statistics department, said: “The majority of the global workforce endures strikingly low pay and for many having a job does not mean having enough to live on.
“The poorest 10% would need to work more than three centuries to earn the same as the richest 10% do in one year.”
According to the report, Poorer countries tend to have much higher levels of pay inequality than richer nations. In sub-Saharan Africa, the bottom 50% of workers receive only 3.3% of total pay, compared with the European Union, where the same group receives 22.9% of the total income paid to workers.
The countries with the most pay inequality in the world are DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Niger and Uganda, according to the report.
“The data show that in relative terms, increases in the top labour incomes are associated with losses for everyone else, with both middle-class and lower-income workers seeing their share of income decline,” said Steven Kapsos, head of data production and analysis at the ILO.
“However, when the labour income shares of the middle- or lower-income workers increase, the gains tend to be widespread, favouring everyone except the top earners.”
Nigeria is currently the poverty capital of the world and also ranked on some measures among the most unequal countries in Africa.