The emergence of the “global” middle class, accompanied by the decrease of inequality thanks to the rise of incomes in Asia and above all in China, caused the biggest changes in the relationship between the West and China since the era of the industrial revolution, as pointed out by Branko Milanović in his lecture “Changes in global income inequality and their political implications”, which he gave on April 6 at the Institute of Social Sciences.
One of the world’s leading economists and scholars of inequality started the lecture by dividing the economic history of global inequality in three periods: first, from 1820 to 1950, which is characterized by an increasing country income difference and rising within countries inequalities, the second from 1950 to the last decade of the 20th century, with very high global and between-country inequality; and the current period, which is marked by a decreasing inequality thanks to the rise of incomes in Asia, primarily in China.
As Milanović has shown, the third period led to the emergence of a global “middle” class, reduced the gap between nations in terms of income levels and, when looking at the relationship between the West and China, caused the biggest changes since the Industrial Revolution.
In the final part of the lecture, Milanović referred to the conditions under which the declining trend of global inequality could continue, in the context of the biggest challenges of this process: the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the deterioration of (economic) relations between the USA and China, as well as the war between Russia and Ukraine.
In an extensive and dynamic discussion following the lecture, he among other things also pointed out that data on households, although undoubtedly being the main instrument for precise research on (global) inequality, naturally also have their limitations, which he briefly referred to.
The lecture was moderated by Irena Ristić, followed by about 50 participants in the auditorium and more than 60 online. The lecture is part of the Regional Tea Party cycle, this year titled “The Left”, in the co-organization of the Institute of Social Sciences and the Academic Network for Cooperation in Southeast Europe.