The concept of inequality is that two different people or two different societies do not have equal rights and freedoms on the same event, depending on certain factors. Inequality is a situation that prioritises one segment and excludes the other segment. These inequalities can be mainly age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion and economic situation. Also, these inequalities begin to increase due to people’s place in society and class differentiation. The tenth sustainable development goal (SDG-10) “reduced inequalities”, which is expected to be reduced by 2030, is very important for all developed or developing countries (European Commission 2021). Because inequality occurs in many areas, it should be examined in different groups as it has many cultural, regional and religious layers. Since these factors have led to various inequalities in the individual and society term, the European Commission has divided inequalities into two groups so that “reducing inequalities” can be achieved and studies can be carried out on this issue (European Commission 2021). So, when the main problems that cause inequality are considered, some of them are seen to be more personal problems, while others are more social. For example, it is stated that while poverty caused by economic inequality is a more personal problem, gender inequality is more social. Thus, some inequalities that can be grouped based on individual (European Commission 2021) include:

  1. 1.

    Economic inequality is expressed as a result of differences such as income, consumption and wealth of individuals in society.

  2. 2.

    Social inequality can be expressed as inequalities experienced in social areas such as education or employment. Some differences in social status and position among individuals in society, which lead to economic inequalities, are strongly associated with social inequality.

  3. 3.

    Political inequality is expressed as the unequal consequences of decisions taken by political authorities. This can lead to different groups being prevented from participating in political processes.

  4. 4.

    Environmental inequality can be expressed in the unequal distribution of environmental risks such as air and water pollution and inequality in their access to ecosystem services such as land, parks and fresh water in the surrounding area. Changes in the social status of individuals and their positions in society cause environmental inequality to be closely related to social and economic inequality.

Some other inequalities can be grouped based on society (Stewart et al. 2009):

  1. 1.

    Vertical inequality is expressed as some differences between individuals in a particular country, region or the whole world.

  2. 2.

    Horizontal inequality is characterised as inequalities that arise due to culturalal differences between groups such as ethnicity, religion and race within a specific country or region or in the world.

According to some studies carried out by the European Commission, it has been determined that “horizontal inequality”, which also includes gender inequality, is the group where violence and conflict are seen the most and which causes social peace, social order and democracy to be affected (European Commission 2021).

Inequalities are not only between people. There are inequalities between countries, such as those connected to representation, migration and development assistance, which are also targeted by the goal (UN 2015). It is also important to implement the laws to prevent the economic system and the current global wealth inequality against the inequalities between countries. Thus, thanks to the targets and indicators established under SDG-10, it also acknowledges that it helps to alleviate inequalities within the country (Ofir et al. 2016). SDG-10 aims to improve developing nations’ representation in international markets, regulate migration and increase the flow of finance to developing countries via foreign direct investment and government development assistance. In this approach, eliminating inter-country inequalities serves as both a goal and a means of lowering inequalities inside countries (Katila et al. 2020). In addition, reducing income inequality will lead to positive economic and socio-cultural results (Pickett and Wilkinson 2010). Also, another area of inequality is in education. The increasing level of education will increase development worldwide and reduce economic inequality. According to a study, increasing the early child education rate to 25% in all countries has a benefit of $10.6 billion, and increasing it to 50% has a benefit of $33.7 billion (Engle et al., 2011).

Socioeconomic injustice manifests itself in the form of exploitation, economic marginalisation and denial of essential living conditions, resulting in unequal concepts of justice. Thus, socioeconomic injustice can lead to disasters. For example, thousands of migrants lost their lives on their journeys due to high migrant movements in 2020. 4186 deaths and disappearances were seen in 2020 (United Nations Economic and Social Council 2021). Remedies against distributional injustice can be realised through factors such as changing the division of labour, renewing incomes and transforming economic structures. The transformation of economic structures can also occur with the restructuring of political-economic policies (Katila et al. 2020). So, political decisions are vital in tackling these inequalities. It has been said that legally protecting rights will also reduce social and cultural inequality (Guha-Khasnobis and Vivek 2007).

SDG-10 has 10 sub-targets. As shown in Fig. 12.1, Targets 10.1-4 of SDG-10 are illustrated to understand how they are distributed among social groups, minorities and multiple groups across variables such as political, social and economic (Kabeer et al. 2017). Target 10.1 recognises economic differences within a country, whereas Target 10.3 recognises potential distribution; both have a lot of overlap with distributive justice principles. Target 10.2 conforms to the concepts of recognising and observing justice, thus aiming to strengthen its inclusiveness economically, politically and socially. However, it aims to ensure social, economic and political participation for all people, regardless of their age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or another status. Indicator 10.2.1, on the other hand, just evaluates progress in economic aspects and contexts of age, sex, and people with disabilities. Just as other targets, Target 10.4 adopts policies that review political, social and economic inequalities by adhering to the three concepts of environmental justice (Katila et al. 2020).

Fig. 12.1
figure 1

Targets and indicators of SDG-10. (United Nations 2021)

There are, in particular, SDGs that have synergy, like SDG 1-8-5. SDG 5 is a unique one. It has synergy with most of the SDGs. However, there is an exception as SDG-10, which reconciles not with most SDGs (Hegre et al. 2020). SDG-10 is not tied to SDGs 12–15, which deal with environmental preservation. The possible conflicts, exchanges and efficiencies between SDG-10 and these environmental SDGs have gone unnoticed. This is important because environmental justice study is particularly aware of the implications of global environmental remedies on localised battles (Sikor and Newell 2014). In short, the tenth goal of sustainable development, “Reduced Inequality”, aims to end inequality between states and people by supporting policies implemented to eliminate discriminatory practices and policies. SDG-10 supports everyone to reach the same social, economic and political level regardless of age, religion, ethnic origin or economy.

After discussing what inequality is, it is seen that inequality is a concept that is constantly witnessed by people between countries and even in all areas of society. Among the types of inequality, social inequality, which affects society and humanity the most, still makes a name for itself in today’s age. Even in today’s conditions, inequality is a problem in the world. Disadvantaged ethnic groups or religious communities with a bad image may experience difficulties while benefiting from public services such as health and education. The deprivation of some segments of such public services in a sustainable life is a major obstacle to sustainability for that society because public services have a key value for a sustainable society (Ogwezi et al. 2020). Therefore, states have demonstrated their political intention and desire to decrease inequality within and across countries by adopting SDG-10. Each country can choose which direction it wants to take to meet this lofty target by 2030. With this, in September 2015, 193 states have affirmed that they have the political willpower to act following the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes SDG-10 (Kaltenborn et al. 2020).

Although the approach of states to inequalities is positive, societies still face problems in many areas due to inequalities. In this case, to better comprehend the significance of preventing inequality, it is necessary to state the problems encountered first on account of the present inequalities. In this way, the importance of adopting this purpose can be better explained by revealing how many problems are imposed on life. In the course of daily life, it is possible not to pay enough attention to whether one can recognise the problems that arise from these inequalities.

  • Health: In unequal societies, the expectation of long life is lower as the healthcare services are not provided equally. At the same time, in this kind of society, psychological health problems, child death rates and overweight issues are also higher. Furthermore, the percentage of HIV infection is higher in unequally developed and still developing countries (The World Economic Forum 2015). If we consider the reverse case, healthy individuals mean more efficient work, happier people and a prosperous society. Therefore, more people must achieve affordable and professional healthcare services (ESCAP 2019).

  • Social life: It is claimed that inequality affects mental health, drug use, obesity, education, youth/birth, high crime rate and anti-social/fearful behaviour (Pickett and Wilkinson 2010). Also, reducing the existing inequality between population groups triggers the reduction of the conflict rate (Stewart et al. 2009).

  • Work-life: The importance of equality in access to decent work can be seen in economic aspects and social aspects. To avoid poverty, working without social protection in dangerous works while taking insufficient money is named vulnerable employment. The more people work as vulnerable employees, the more economic growth slows, and the more society gets uneasy (ESCAP 2019).

  • Human capital development: Scores in UNICEF’s child welfare index appear to be worse in some countries with higher inequality levels. In these countries, the number of people who leave their education and jobs or become mothers at a young age increases as inequality increases. As a natural consequence of all these, social mobility is restricted and innovation rates are lower. Due to better social mobility, equal countries are prone to use higher ratios of innovation (The World Economic Forum 2015).

  • Economic progress and stability: Economic progress and stability: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that decreasing inequality will support economic growth in the long run. This expression can mean that poverty reduction is achieved through income equality (The World Economic Forum 2015). The probability of crashing global markets due to drastic wealth disparity between and among the countries was reported by the most prominent economists globally, including the IMF itself (Berg et al. 2018). Inequality is associated with economies becoming more frequent and severe in their ups and downs. This makes economies even more volatile and vulnerable to crises (The World Economic Forum 2015). The 2018 World Inequality Report aims to measure income and property inequality systematically. Earnings in some countries can be several times higher than in other countries. In this case, the increasing political influence in the economy makes it difficult to trust the parliaments and the state. Today, even in countries that have survived the crisis, economic inequality can arise (United Nations 2020a). From another perspective, economic growth will be slow in societies with high-income inequality. While the cost of ignoring inequality is high, countries with high-income inequalities will experience an economic recession, and it will be difficult for the society to get out of poverty (United Nations Economic and Social Council 2021).

  • Ecological: Drought, rising sea levels, hurricanes, landslides, low-income people living in villages and large cities and developing countries have disproportionately affected the impacts. Their location and serious socio-economic damage affect these countries more (Scholz 2020). As all know, some countries maintain their existence with agriculture-livestock, and some countries survive with widespread infectious and respiratory diseases or find it difficult to find food. Because these conditions cannot be equalised, poor or disadvantaged countries suffer more from climate change and natural events. Because, for example, in countries that live on agriculture and animal husbandry, people have to stay connected to the land and the country, they must adapt to situations immediately to survive. However, the disadvantages do not adapt easily (United Nations 2020a). Additionally, when there is a lack of clean and economical alternatives, people burn crop wastes or coal for lighting, heating or cooking. That’s why equality in accessing clean energy is important for a healthier and cleaner world (ESCAP 2019).

  • Technological: The development of automation and artificial intelligence has made some occupational groups unemployed, and the impacts of these technologies have contributed to income inequality. On the other hand, however, some countries that cannot reach health services have started to reach them, thanks to the developing technologies. If a system that can facilitate learning is invented at the educational level, the people in rich countries have more advantages than developing countries because of transportation/communication costs (United Nations 2020a).

The problems caused by inequality in the areas encountered in life have been explained above. SDG-10 has an important role in solving problems that are so integrated into human life. It is necessary to solve by considering the specific areas and situations of the 2030 targets and the problems after.

The action plan of sustainable development goals is aimed to be completed by all states in the world by 2030. However, there are some debates on whether the SDGs can be achieved by the target date or not. According to the “UN’s 2020 report on the SDGs”, it has been stated that due to the negative impact of the recent pandemics and regional wars, the work towards the successful completion of the SDGs has slowed down (United Nations 2020b). If SDG-10 is achieved, studies have been carried out on what the “imaginary” world would be like. For example, according to a study in the UK West Midlands Combined Authority Area, city issues have been solved under cover of SDGs. The estimates of future oriented to SDG-10 (Bonsu et al. 2020):

  • Reducing health disparities and enhancing population health and well-being, including mental health difficulties, air pollution and the global climate catastrophe.

  • Improving life prospects for everyone, including those who face particular challenges or disadvantages.

  • Spreading the word about a movement for inclusive leadership/inclusivity, wealth and fairness.

  • Building the correct skills leads to increased productivity and prosperity, allowing people from all walks of life to find work. Improving skill levels so that people have the knowledge and certificates they need to find work.

  • Addressing climate change through improving location, infrastructure, air quality and the environment.

  • As a result of these efforts, the WMCA has been recognised as one of the best achievers on local sustainability programs nationally in yearly league tables.

As can be seen from the study, ensuring SDG-10 is an important step in the path of achieving a more sustainable world. However, whether or not these SDGs can be completed by the targeted date has also become important for the future. When the United Nations’ SDG report of 2020 is examined, it has been observed that the pandemic in 2020 has some consequences that may also affect the SDGs. Considering that the course of the SDGs depends on some developments, evaluations of improvement/worsening made based on areas become important. While there has been improvement in some areas, other areas such as food insecurity and the increase in natural disasters have caused many inequalities to emerge. These developments show that the pandemic has produced some unpredictable effects in 2020, and it is not exactly known what effect it will have on the course of the SDGs. According to the report, it becomes more difficult to achieve these targets until the targeted date (United Nations 2020b). In other words, it is thought that there is not enough data about whether the targets can be achieved or not in the future and that the effect of the pandemic can be reversed as a result of the ongoing studies.

The matter of inequality is a popular research area in economics. Inequality has risen over the world. Countless studies relate inequality and economic growth (Galor 2011). The 2018 World Inequality Report, co-authored by Alvaredo, Piketty and Zucman, likewise strikes a fresh and distinct tone, warning that if growing inequality is not adequately tracked and tackled, it might lead to a wide range of political, economic and social disasters (World Inequality Lab 2018). Especially, policy circles have become more interested in the economic growth rates affected by income inequality. Although the effect may vary based on the wealth of the corresponding and some other variables, it is stated that the changes in income inequality affect the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (Hossen and Khondker 2020). On the other hand, the World Bank blazed the way, demonstrating that there are policies that can reduce inequality while also increasing growth and productivity (World Bank 2016).

Furthermore, the 2018 World Inequality Report has some latest studies: Economic inequality exists in all parts of the world. For example, in Europe, it is the least, whereas, in the Middle East, it is the highest. The disparity has expanded in nearly all nations in recent years. However, at varying rates, since 1980, economic inequality has climbed fast in North America, China, India and Russia, while it has increased moderately in Europe (Kaltenborn et al. 2020). The expansion of democracy into economic institutions, in addition to international and national initiatives to develop progressive tax systems and combat tax evasion and tax havens, can have a significant influence on decreasing inequality. Nations may adopt some basic, doable steps to increase equality alongside economic democracy.

12.1 Companies and Use Cases

Table 12.1 presents the business models of 21 companies and use cases that employ emerging technologies and create value in SDG-10. We should highlight that one use case can be related to more than one SDG and it can make use of multiple emerging technologies. In the left column, we present the company name, the origin country, related SDGs and emerging technologies that are included. The companies and use cases are listed alphabetically.1Footnote 1

Table 12.1 Companies and use cases in SDG-10