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Wealth: Having it all and wanting more

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Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/ healthcare.

Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists.

GLOBAL WEALTH IS INCREASINGLY BEING CONCENTRATED IN THE HANDS OF A SMALL WEALTHY ELITE

Global wealth is becoming increasing concentrated among a small wealthy elite. Data from Credit Suisse shows that since 2010, the richest 1% of adults in the world have been increasing their share of total global wealth. Figure 1 shows that 2010 marks an inflection point in the share of global wealth going to this group.

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In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet [1] Almost all of that 52% is owned by those included in the richest 20%, leaving just 5.5% for the remaining 80% of people in the world. If this trend continues of an increasing wealth share to the richest, the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of people in just two years, as shown on Figure 2, with the wealth share of the top 1% exceeding 50% by 2016.

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The very richest of the top 1%, the billionaires on the Forbes list [2] have seen their wealth accumulate even faster over this period. In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3tn. By 2014, the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list had a collective wealth of $1.9tn; an increase of $600bn in just 4 years, or 50% in nominal terms. Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current US$ had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires; however since 2010, it has been decreasing over this time.

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The wealth of these 80 individuals is now the same as that owned by the bottom 50% of the global population, such that 3.5 billion people share between them the same amount of wealth as that of these extremely wealthy 80 people.[5] As the wealth of everyone else has not been increasing at the same rate as that for the top 80, the share of total wealth owned by this group has increased and the gap between the very rich and everyone else has also been increasing. As a result, the number of billionaires who have the same amount of wealth as that of the bottom half of the planet has declined rapidly over the past five years. In 2010, it took 388 billionaires to equal the wealth of the bottom half of the world‟s population; by 2014, the figure had fallen to just 80 billionaires (see Figure 4).

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Updating the Credit Suisse wealth data – and Oxfam’s 2014 statistic

In January 2014 Oxfam calculated that in 2013, 85 people had the same wealth as the bottom half of the world‟s population, a number that was cited worldwide due to the extreme level of wealth inequality that it illustrated.[6] The paper used data from the Forbes list published in March 2013 and from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook with data for „mid 2013‟.
In October 2014, Credit Suisse updated their wealth estimates; the share of wealth held by each global decile and the total global wealth estimates for the years 2000–2014 at the end of each year. The new estimates include an update to the wealth numbers for 2013, from which Oxfam calculated the 85 statistic. This briefing uses the updated number for 2013 and all other years as published in 2014. Based on these updated figures, in 2013 the number of billionaires holding the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% was recalculated to be 92.

 

WEALTHY INDIVIDUALS HAVE GENERATED AND SUSTAINED THEIR RICHES THROUGH INTERESTS AND ACTIVITIES IN A FEW IMPORTANT ECONOMIC SECTORS

In 2014 there were 1,645 people listed by Forbes as being billionaires. This group of people is far from being globally representative. Almost 30% of them (492 people) are citizens of the USA. Over one-third of billionaires started from a position of wealth, with 34% of them having inherited some or all of their riches. This group is predominately male and greying; with 85%[7]of these people aged over 50 years and 90% of them male.[8]

There are a few important economic sectors that have contributed to the accumulation of wealth of these billionaires. In March 2014, 20% of them (321) were listed as having interests or activities in, or relating to, the financial and insurance sectors,[9] the most commonly cited source of wealth for billionaires on this list. Since March 2013, there have been 37 new billionaires from these sectors, and six have dropped off the list. The accumulated wealth of billionaires from these sectors has increased from $1.01tn to $1.16tn in a single year; a nominal increase of $150bn, or 15%.

Table 1: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the financial sector, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014.

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Between 2013 and 2014 billionaires listed as having interests and activities in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw the biggest increase in their collective wealth. Twenty-nine individuals joined the ranks of the billionaires between March 2013 and March 2014 (five dropped off the list), increasing the total number from 66 billionaires to 90, in 2014 making up 5% of the total billionaires on the list. The collective wealth of billionaires with interests in this sector increased from $170bn to $250bn, a 47% increase and the largest percentage increase in wealth of the different sectors on the Forbes list.

Table 2: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014.

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COMPANIES FROM THE FINANCE AND PHARMACEUTICAL SECTORS SPENT MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN 2013 ON LOBBYING
The biggest and most successful companies from both the finance and insurance sectors and the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors achieve extremely high profits and therefore command substantial resources which they use to compensate their owners and investors, helping to accumulate their personal wealth. But these resources could also potentially be used for economic and political influence. One way that companies explicitly use their resources for influence is through the direct lobbying of governments, particularly on issues and policies which affect their business interests.

During 2013, the finance sector spent more than $400m on lobbying in the USA alone,[10]12% of the total amount spent by all sectors on lobbying in the US in 2013. In addition, during the election cycle of 2012, $571m was spent by companies from this sector on campaign contributions.[11]The financial sector is found by the Centre for Responsive Politics to be the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties. Billionaires from the US make up approximately half of the total billionaires on the Forbes list with interests in the financial sector. The number of US finance billionaires increased from 141 to 150, and their collective wealth from $535bn to $629bn; an increase of $94bn, or 17% in a single year.
In the EU, an estimated $150m is spent by financial sector lobbyists towards EU institutions every year.[12]Between March 2013 and March 2014, the number of billionaires in the EU with activities and interests in the financial sector increased from 31 to 39, an increase in collective wealth of $34bn, to $128bn.

While corporations from the finance and insurance sectors spend their resources on lobbying to pursue their own interests, and as a result go on to increase their profits and the associated wealth of those individuals involved in the sector, ordinary people continue to pay the price of the global financial crisis. The cost to the US taxpayer of the bailout of the financial sector was calculated to be $21bn.[13] While the financial sector has recovered well as a result of this bailout, median income levels in the USA are yet to return to their pre-crisis levels.[14]The ongoing cost to the tax payer for „systematically important financial institutions‟ – in other words those that are too big to fail – has been estimated by the IMF to be $83bn every year.[15]

During 2013, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors spent more than $487m on lobbying in the USA alone.[16]This was more than was spent by any other sector in the US, representing 15% of $3.2bn total lobbying expenditures in 2013. In addition, during the election cycle of 2012, $260m was spent by this sector on campaign contributions.[17] Twenty-two of the 90 pharmaceutical and healthcare billionaires are US citizens.

At least $50m[18] is spent by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry on lobbying each year in the EU, where 20 of the 90 billionaires who made their money from pharmaceuticals and healthcare reside, and who together increased their wealth in the last year by $28bn.
While millions are being spent on lobbying by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and billions being made by individuals associated with these companies, a health crisis has erupted in West Africa. The Ebola virus has been threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014.

Companies have responded positively to the Ebola crisis: some pharmaceutical companies are investing in research to find a vaccine, the full costs of which are not yet known. The three pharmaceutical companies[19] that are members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) and that have made the largest contribution to the Ebola relief effort, have collectively donated more than $3m in cash and medical products.[20]But the amount of money that has been spent on Ebola and other activities that have a broader benefit to society needs to be looked at in the context of their expenditure on corporate lobbying to influence for their own interests. These three companies together spent more than $18m on lobbying activities in the US during 2013.

To put the funding for the Ebola crisis in perspective, the World Bank estimates that the economic costs to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was $356m in output forgone in 2014, and a further $815m in 2015 if the epidemic is slow to be contained.[21]The largest increase in wealth between 2013 and 2014 by a single pharma-related billionaire could pay the entire $1.17bn cost for 2014–15 three times over. Stefano Pessina[22] increased his net worth by $4bn, from $6.4bn to $10.4bn in a single year; the largest single increase in wealth of all the billionaires listed with pharmaceutical and healthcare interests.

THE MOST PROLIFIC LOBBYING ACTIVITIES IN THE US ARE ON BUDGET AND TAX ISSUES
The billions that are spent by companies on lobbying, giving them direct access to policy and law makers in Washington and Brussels, is a calculated investment. The expectation is that these billions will deliver policies that create a more favourable and profitable business environment, which will more than compensate for the lobbying costs.
In the US, the two issues which most lobbying is reported against are the federal budget and appropriations and taxes.[23]These are the public‟s resources, which companies are aiming to directly influence for their own benefit, using their substantial cash resources. Lobbying on tax issues in particular can directly undermine public interests, where a reduction in the tax burden to companies results in less money for delivering essential public services.

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RISING INEQUALITY IS NOT INEVITABLE
In October 2014 Oxfam launched its Even It Up campaign, calling for governments, institutions and corporations to tackle extreme inequality. This briefing provides further evidence that we must build a fairer economic and political system that values every citizen. Oxfam is calling on world leaders, including those gathered at the 2015 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, to address the factors that have led to today‟s inequality explosion and to implement policies that redistribute money and power from the few to the many.

1 Make governments work for citizens and tackle extreme inequality
Specific commitments must include: agreement of a post-2015 goal to eradicate extreme inequality by 2030; national inequality commissions; public disclosure of lobbying activities; freedom of expression and a free press.

2 Promote women’s economic equality and women’s rights
Specific commitments must include: compensation for unpaid care; an end to the gender pay gap; equal inheritance and land rights for women; data collection to assess how women and girls are affected by economic policy.

3. Pay workers a living wage and close the gap with skyrocketing executive reward
Specific commitments must include: increasing minimum wages towards living wages; moving towards a highest-to-median pay ratio of 20:1; transparency on pay ratios; protection of worker‟s rights to unionise and strike.

4. Share the tax burden fairly to level the playing field
Specific commitments must include: shifting the tax burden away from labour and consumption and towards wealth, capital and income from these assets; transparency on tax incentives; national wealth taxes and exploration of a global wealth tax.

5. Close international tax loopholes and fill holes in tax governance
Specific commitments must include: a reform process where developing countries participate on an equal footing, and a new global governance body for tax matters; public country-by-country reporting; public registries of beneficial ownership; multilateral automatic exchange of tax information including with developing countries that can‟t reciprocate; stopping the use of tax havens, including through a blacklist and sanctions; making companies pay based on their real economic activity.

6. Achieve universal free public services by 2020
Specific commitments must include: removal of user fees; meeting spending commitments; stopping new and reviewing existing public subsidies for health and education provision by private for-profit companies; excluding public services and medicines from trade and investment agreements.

7. Change the global system for research and development (R&D) and pricing of medicines so that everyone has access to appropriate and affordable medicines
Specific commitments must include: a new global R&D treaty; increased investment in medicines, including in affordable generics; excluding intellectual property rules from trade agreements.

8. Implement a universal social protection floor
Specific commitments must include: universal child and elderly care services; basic income security through universal child benefits, unemployment benefits and pensions.

9. Target development finance at reducing inequality and poverty, and strengthening the compact between citizens and their government
Specific commitments must include: increased investment from donors in free public services and domestic resources mobilization; and assessing the effectiveness of programmes in terms of how they support citizens to challenge inequality and promote democratic participation.

A full list of Oxfam‟s recommendations to governments, institutions and corporations can be found in the report Even It Up: Time to end extreme inequality published in October 2014.[24]

NOTES

All URLs last accessed in December 2014 unless otherwise stated.

1   Credit Suisse (2013 and 2014 respectively) “Global Wealth Databook, found at https://www.credit-suisse.com/uk/en/news-and-expertise/research/credit-suisse-research- institute/publications.html

2   Forbes, Billionaires list, available in real time at http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#tab:overall. Annual data taken from list published in March of each year.

3   These are not the same individuals over time; some billionaires may enter or exit this elite group from year to year.

4   Values given in „Money of the Day for each year, based on current exchange rates against the US$. Value of $970.9bn in 2014 money is approximately $1,042bn; therefore between 2009 and 2014 billionaires increased their wealth in real terms by approximately 82%. Variation in wealth over time can also be driven by exchange rate fluctuations, where assets are owned in currencies other than the US$, but need to be converted to US$ values for the purposes of this Index.

5   For detailed explanation of the calculation, see http://oxfamblogs.org/mindthegap/2014/11/19/have-you-heard-the-one-about-the-85-richest- people/

6   R. Fuentes-Nieva and N, Galasso (2014) „Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality, Oxfam, http://oxf.am/KHp

7   Fifty people with no recorded age in the Forbes data set were excluded from the summary statistic.

8   Six people listed as male and female couples and were excluded from the summary statistic.

9   Billionaires were coded as having business interests or activities in the finance sector if the description of the source of wealth was interpreted to be related to the finance sector. In some cases the source of wealth is explicitly listed as „finance, in others the company name, such as Bloomberg, a financial sector media service. Some billionaires have interests in more than one sector, including finance.

10 Data from Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=F&year=2013. Total spend for finance, insurance and real estate, minus real estate.

11 Data from Centre for Responsive politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.php?ind=F&Bkdn=DemRep&cycle=2012

Total contributions for finance/insurance/real estate, minus real estate.

12 Corporate Europe Observatory (2014), “The Fire Power of the Financial Lobby”, http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/attachments/financial_lobby_report.pdf. Research finds annual spend of €123m, converted to USD at 1.24 (FX rate as of 10 December). The actual numbers are likely to be far higher. This underestimate is also due to the lack of a mandatory register at the EU level that provides reliable information for a proper monitoring of industry lobbying

13 Congressional Budget Office (2013), “Report on the Troubled assets Relief programme”

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44256_TARP.pdf

14 United States Census Bureau (2014), „Income and poverty in the United States – 2013

https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf

15 IMF (2012), “Quantifying Structural Subsidy Values for Systematically Important Financial Institutions”. Value of subsides calculated into US$ per year terms by Bloomberg http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2013-02-20/why-should-taxpayers-give-big-banks-83- billion-a-year-

16 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=H&year=2013

17 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=H

18 Corporate Europe Observatory (2012) “Divide and Conquer: A look behind the scenes of the EU pharmaceutical industry lobby”, http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/28_march_2012_divideconquer.pdf

As registration to the Transparency Register is voluntary; many pharmaceutical companies choose not to declare their expenditures. If recorded properly, expenditure on lobbying activities by the industry could be shown to be as high as €91m annually.

19 The three largest cash and in-kind contributors that are members of the IFPMA are GSK, Johnson and Johnson and Novatis

20 http://www.ifpma.org/global-health/ebola-outbreak/ebola-capacity-building.html

21 World Bank (2014) „The Economic Impact of the 2014 Ebola Epidemic, World Bank Group, 2 December 2014, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/20592/9781464804380.pdf?sequence=6

22 http://www.forbes.com/profile/stefano-pessina/

23 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?indexType=u&showYear=2014

24 E. Seery and A. Arandar (2014) „Even It Up: Time to end extreme inequality, Oxford: Oxfam International, http://oxf.am/Ffd

© Oxfam International January 2015

This paper was written by Deborah Hardoon. It is part of a series of papers written to inform public debate on development and humanitarian policy issues. For further information on the issues raised in this paper please e-mail advocacy@oxfaminternational.org

This publication is copyright but the text may be used free of charge for the purposes of advocacy, campaigning, education, and research, provided that the source is acknowledged in full. The copyright holder requests that all such use be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re- use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, permission must be secured and a fee may be charged. E-mail policyandpractice@oxfam.org.uk. The information in this publication is correct at the time of going to press.

New Social Compact

Remote Learning during the pandemic: Lessons from today, principles for tomorrow 

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Education systems around the world reacted to COVID-19 by closing schools and rolling out remote learning options for their students as an emergency response.  New World Bank analysis of early evidence reveals that while remote learning has not been equally effective everywhere, hybrid learning is here to stay.

Going forward, for remote learning to deliver on its potential, the analysis shows the need to ensure strong alignment between three complementary components: effective teaching, suitable technology, and engaged learners.

“Hybrid learning – which combines in-person and remote learning – is here to stay. The challenge will be the art of combining technology and the human factor to make hybrid learning a tool to expand access to quality education for all,” emphasized Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education.  “Information technology is only a complement, not a substitute, for the conventional teaching process – particularly among preschool and elementary school students. The importance of teachers, and the recognition of education as essentially a human interaction endeavor, is now even clearer.”

The twin reports, Remote Learning During the Global School Lockdown: Multi-Country Lessons and Remote Learning During COVID-19: Lessons from Today, Principles for Tomorrow, stress that three components are critical for remote learning to be effective:

  • Prioritizing effective teachers: a teacher with high subject content knowledge, skills to use technology, and appropriate pedagogical tools and support is more likely to be effective at remote instruction.
  • Adopting suitable technology: availability of technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective remote learning.
  • Ensuring learners are engaged: for students to be engaged, contextual factors such as the home environment, family support, and motivation for learning must be well aligned.

The reports found that many countries struggled to ensure take-up and some even found themselves in a remote learning paradox: choosing a distance learning approach unsuited to the access and capabilities of a majority of their teachers and students.

“Emerging evidence on the effectiveness of remote learning during COVID-19 is mixed at best,” said Cristóbal Cobo, World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, and co-author of the two reports. “Some countries provided online digital learning solutions, although a majority of students lacked digital devices or connectivity, thus resulting in uneven participation, which further exacerbated existing inequalities. Other factors leading to low student take-up are unconducive home environments; challenges in maintaining children’s engagement, especially that of younger children; and low digital literacy of students, teachers, and/or parents.”

“While pre-pandemic access to technology and capabilities to use it differed widely within and across countries, limited parental engagement and support for children from poor families has generally hindered their ability to benefit from remote learning,” stressed Saavedra.

Despite these challenges with remote learning, this can be an unprecedented opportunity to leverage its potential to reimagine learning and to build back more effective and equitable education systems. Hybrid learning is part of the solution for the future to make the education process more effective and resilient. 

The reports offer the following five principles to guide country efforts going forward:

Ensure remote learning is fit-for-purpose. Countries should choose modes of remote learning that are suitable to the access and utilization of technology among both teachers and students, including digital skills, and that teachers have opportunities to develop the technical and pedagogical competencies needed for effective remote teaching. 

Use technology to enhance the effectiveness of teachers. Teacher professional development should develop the skills and support needed to be an effective teacher in a remote setting.

Establish meaningful two-way interactions. Using the most appropriate technology for the local context, it is imperative to enable opportunities for students and teachers to interact with each other with suitable adaptations to the delivery of the curriculum.

Engage and support parents as partners in the teaching and learning process. It is imperative that parents (families) are engaged and supported to help students access remote learning and to ensure both continuity of learning and protect children’s socioemotional well-being.

Rally all actors to cooperate around learning. Cooperation across all levels of government; as well as partnerships between the public and private sector, and between groups of teachers and school principals; is vital to the effectiveness of remote learning and to ensure that the system continues to adapt, learn, and improve in an ever-changing remote learning landscape.

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New Social Compact

Youth embody ‘spirit’ of 21st century more than parents

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Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other global challenges, children and youth are nearly 50 per cent more likely than older people to believe that the world is becoming a better place, according to the results of a landmark intergenerational poll published on Thursday. 

The international survey was conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gallup, the global analytics and advice firm, and has been released ahead of World Children’s Day on 20 November. 

The Changing Childhood Project is the first poll of its kind to ask multiple generations for their views on the world and what it is like to be a child today.  

Part of the solution 

Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director, said that despite numerous reasons to be pessimistic, children and young people refuse to see the world through the bleak lens of adults. 

“Compared to older generations, the world’s young people remain hopeful, much more globally minded, and determined to make the world a better place,” she added.  

“Today’s young people have concerns for the future but see themselves as part of the solution”. 

More than 21,000 people in 21 countries participated in the survey, which was conducted across two age cohorts – 15-24 years old, and age 40 and up – and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hopeful, not naïve 

Nationally representative surveys were undertaken in countries across all regions – Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America – and income levels.  

 The findings revealed young people are also more likely to believe childhood has improved, and that healthcare, education and physical safety are better today when compared with their parents’ generation. 

However, despite their optimism, youth are far from naïve.  The poll showed they want to see action to address the climate emergency.  At the same time, they are skeptical about the information they consume on social media, and struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety.  

This generation is also more likely to see themselves as global citizens, and they are more willing to embrace international cooperation to combat threats such as the pandemic. 

Aware of risks 

The survey also found children and young people are generally more trusting of national governments, scientists and international news media as sources of accurate information.  

They are also aware of the problems the world is facing, with nearly 80 per cent seeing serious risks for children online, such as exposure to violent or sexually explicit content, or being bullied. 

Young people want faster progress in the fight against discrimination, more cooperation among countries, and for decision-makers to listen to them. 

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed who are aware of climate change believe Governments should take significant action to address it.  The share rises to 83 per cent in low- and lower-middle countries, where climate impacts are set to be greatest. 

21st century citizens 

In practically every country, large majorities of youth said their countries would be safer from COVID-19 and other threats if Governments would work together, rather than on their own. 

They have also demonstrated stronger support for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rights, with young women at the forefront for equality. 

The survey also revealed a strong alignment between the two generations, including on the issues of climate, education, global collaboration, though some of the deepest divides occurred around optimism, global mindedness and recognition of historical progress.   

“While this research paints a nuanced view of the generational divide, a clear picture emerges: Children and young people embody the spirit of the 21st century far more readily than their parents,” said Ms. Fore.  

“As UNICEF prepares to mark its 75th anniversary next month, and ahead of World Children’s Day, it is critical we listen to young people directly about their well-being and how their lives are changing”.

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New Social Compact

Seva, a book that is here to heal the world

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It was early in February this year that I visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Walking outside the beautiful golden studded Gurudwara, I couldn’t help but feel awe at the langar that was being served. Prepared for lakhs of devotees everyday. Imagine a kitchen that is equipped to feed around one lakh people everyday, what goes on in the minds of people working at the Golden Temple tirelessly to feed one lakh devotees? There is really only one value behind their actions – Seva. Seva literally translates to helping others and seems simple at the outset. But to understand it deeply, you need to read Jasreen Mayal Khanna’s Seva published earlier this year.

Seva – Sikh secrets on how to be good in the real world by Jasreen Mayal Khanna is a book that is here to heal the world. It is a much needed book during the current times and promotes the values of helping others while outlining basic things that we often forget to do – say thank you daily, embrace joy, work harder than you pray, practice equality at home, help someone everyday, be brave, learn to laugh at yourself and live in Chardi Kala. While other points might seem easy and direct, the last one, Chardi Kala might not be obviously understandable to many outside the Sikh Community. What is Chardi Kala? It is the mental state of eternal optimism and joy. The Sikh Community is popularly known across the world for helping others and Jasreen Mayal Khanna explains more about the Sikh practice of Seva, serving others.

For a few, doing Seva comes naturally because it has been taught to them since childhood. This is especially valid for people from the Sikh Community who, as Khanna tells us in her book, are taught to contribute towards community service from a very young age. For some, they need to ingrain Seva in their life to lead a more balanced and happy life. We often forget that the individual and the community are woven into a beautifully intricate fabric that relies on each other. We are only reminded of how interconnected we are to each other during times of crisis. The COVID 19 pandemic has been a great reminder about how we need each other to survive. Friends, family and complete strangers helping out each other during times of the pandemic has been revolutionarily eye opening. The truth is that we should not need a pandemic to make us realise how interconnected we are. Books like Seva are an ode to that fabric of interconnectedness that is often forgotten in the world today. With ancient Sikh secrets and promoted values of happiness, the book heals readers in ways more than one. You quite literally need to read this book to lead a more balanced life.

While many Indians have been reading books like Ikigai talking about Japanese secrets to life, books like Seva hit far closer to home for Indians. Reading the book is also a testament to secularism since you can understand more about a community that you possibly interact with daily. Moreover, the book also gives you the opportunity to understand more about the values of the community that you can easily pick things from. Seva is not just a read for Indians, but deserves to be popularised across the world. The book will hit the UK market in May 2022.

“I had my first baby in the first wave of Covid. Through the pandemic, I kept seeing examples of Sikhs who were risking their own lives to help absolute strangers. And while I was very proud, I was not overly surprised because doing seva is second nature to Sikhs. I knew that this is a story that the world needs to hear, that my son Azad needs to hear. I wrote Seva because it is, in a way, the solution to the problems of modern life. Read it to believe it. “, Khanna says rightly. She is quite right about this, you need to read it to believe it.

I hope you can enjoy the book with some traditional Sikh Panjiri, the most delicious sweet made from wheat flour and dried nuts.

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