Inclusive growth depends on cities
And in metropolitan areas such as London and Baltimore, the difference in life expectancy between poor and wealthy neighbourhoods just a few miles apart can be more than 20 years.
As the site of both economic opportunity and disparity, cities are where we must look to tackle inequality. In March, the OECD, the Ford Foundation, Brookings, and other institutions launched the Inclusive Growth in Cities Initiative, in partnership with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and 20 other mayors from around the world. By bringing together “Champion Mayors” to define a shared inclusive-growth agenda, the Initiative acknowledges the all ages and backgrounds can learn marketable skills. For example, in Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed has launched a partnership between a local startup incubator, the city’s workforce development agency, and a coding school to provide young people with mentorship networks, through which they can develop financial literacy and critical thinking skills, while also learning how to write code.
Second, cities should ensure that employment and entrepreneurship opportunities are available to all people, including women, young adults, immigrants, and disadvantaged populations. In Stockholm, which took in 8,000 asylum-seekers between fall 2015 and spring 2016, Mayor Karin Wanngard is developing a new type of school for adults.
As part of a comprehensive integration strategy, the new schools will teach the language, cultural, and technical proficiencies necessary to participate in Stockholm’s job market. In Seoul, Mayor Park Won-soon is leveling the playing field for small and medium-size enterprises with targeted financial support, fairer transaction and subcontracting rules, and informal-work regularisation.
Third, cities must ensure high-quality, affordable housing for all in safe, healthy neighbourhoods. In Paris, Hidalgo’s “right of first refusal” plan allows the municipal government to acquire residences that come on the market in selected neighbourhoods so that it can provide them to poorer residents at risk of being displaced.
Finally, cities should ensure that public infrastructure and services – including public transportation, water, energy, waste management, and broadband – are easily accessible for all. In New York, de Blasio’s IDNYC initiative is providing free government-issued identification cards for all residents – including the homeless, undocumented immigrants, and former convicts – so that marginalised groups can make use of the city’s resources.
Efforts such as the Inclusive Growth in Cities Initiative and the United Nation’s Habitat III conference are helping to turn the tide against rising inequality one city at a time. The more we can capitalise on local solutions for common global problems, the more progress all of us will make.