Inflation threatens to exacerbate inequality, widening the gap between billions of people struggling to pay their bills.

Increase food costs. Fuel bills skyrocketed. Wages are not keeping pace. Inflation is robbing people’s wallets, sparking protests and strikes by workers around the world.

This week alone has seen protests by the political opposition in Pakistan, nurses in Zimbabwe, union workers in Belgium, railway workers in the UK, indigenous people in Ecuador, hundreds of African American workers and some European airline workers. Sri Lanka’s prime minister declared an economic collapse on Wednesday after weeks of political turmoil.

Economists say Russia’s war in Ukraine has fueled inflation by pushing up energy costs and the prices of fertilizers, grains and cooking oil as farmers struggle to grow and export crops in the country. one of the key agricultural regions of the world.

As prices rise, inflation risks exacerbating inequality and widening the gap between billions of people struggling to cover their costs and those who can afford to keep spending. .

“We’re not all together on this,” said Matt Grainger, head of inequality policy at the anti-regime organization Oxfam. “How many of the richest people even know how much a loaf of bread costs? They just don’t really accept the price.”

Oxfam is calling on the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, which are holding their annual summit this weekend in Germany, to provide debt relief for developing economies and tax corporations. union for excess profits.

“This is not just a single crisis,” Grainger said. “It’s coming from the back of a terrible pandemic that has increased inequality around the world.” “I think we’re going to see more and more protests.”

The protests have attracted the attention of governments, which have responded to soaring consumer prices with supportive measures such as expanding subsidies for utility bills and cutting fuel taxes. Usually, that provides little relief because energy markets are volatile. Central banks are trying to ease inflation by raising interest rates.

Meanwhile, striking workers have pressured employers to enter into negotiations over wage increases to keep up with price increases.

Eddie Dempsey, a senior official with Britain’s Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport, which has brought UK train services to a near standstill with strikes this week, said. There will be many requests for raises across other sectors.

“It’s time for the UK to raise wages. Wages have been falling for 30 years and corporate profits are skyrocketing,” Dempsey said.

Last week, thousands of trucker workers in South Korea ended an eight-day strike that caused delivery delays as they called for minimum wage guarantees amid soaring fuel prices. Months earlier, about 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away, truckers in Spain went on strike to protest fuel prices.

The Peruvian government imposed a brief curfew after protests against fuel and food prices turned violent in April. Truckers and other transport workers also went on strike and blocked major highways.

Cost of living protests toppled Sri Lanka’s prime minister last month. Middle-class families say they have been forced to skip meals because of the island nation’s economic crisis, prompting them to completely think about leaving the country.

The situation is particularly dire for refugees and the poor in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar and Haiti, where fighting forces people to flee their homes and rely on aid organisations. themselves struggle to make money.

“How much for my kidney?” is the most asked question at one of the largest hospitals in Kenya. Kenyatta National Hospital reminded people on Facebook this week that it is illegal to sell human organs.

For the middle class in Europe, getting to work and putting food on the table has become more expensive.

“Give us a raise. Right now!” appealed to thousands of union workers in Brussels this week.

“I’m here to defend people’s purchasing power because protest is the only way to make change,” protester Genevieve Cordier said. “We can’t cope anymore. Even with two salaries… we’re both working, and we can’t keep our heads up.”

In some countries, a combination of government corruption and mismanagement has laid the groundwork for economic turmoil, especially in politically deadlocked countries like Lebanon and Iraq.

The protests reflect a growing sense of financial insecurity. Here’s how it turned out in Africa:

– Healthcare professionals in Zimbabwe went on strike this week after rejecting the government’s offer of a 100% pay increase. Nurses say the offer doesn’t come close to a 130% spike in inflation.

– Kenyans have protested in the streets and online as food prices have risen 12% in the past year.

– One of Tunisia’s most powerful unions organized a nationwide strike in the public sector last week. The North African country faces a worsening economic crisis.

– Hundreds of activists this month protested the rising cost of living in Burkina Faso. The UN World Food Program says prices of corn and millet have increased by more than 60 percent since last year, to 122% in some provinces.

Issaka Porgo, president of the civil society union behind the protests in the West African country, said: “As the cost of living keeps rising, we realize that the government has betrayed the people.

Protesters condemn the junta, which ousted the democratically elected president in January, for raising wages on its own while the population faces soaring prices.

The International Monetary Fund says inflation will average around 6% in advanced economies and close to 9% in emerging and developing economies this year. Global economic growth is forecast to slow to 40%, to 3.6%, this year and next. The IMF is calling on governments to focus support packages on those most in need to avoid triggering a recession.

The slowdown comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging industries around the world, from manufacturing to travel. Climate change and drought are affecting agricultural production in some countries, prompting export bans to push food prices even higher.

Peter Ceretti, a food security risk analyst at consulting firm Eurasia Group, said rising food prices are especially painful in low-income countries, where 42 per cent of household incomes is spent on food.

“We’re going to see more protests, maybe broader and more angry, but I don’t expect demonstrations to destabilize or change the regime,” he said. regulated manufacturers and government approved subsidies.

Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London; Sam Mednick of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya; and Mark Carlson of Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

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