18th January 2016
Runaway inequality has created a situation where today a mere 62 people own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population, claims a damning new report from Oxfam.
The study published ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s financial and political elites in Davos showed that the latest tally has fallen dramatically from 388 as recently as 2010 and 80 last year.
The analysis highlighted that since 2010, the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – some 3.6bn people – has collapsed by a trillion dollars, or 41%.
This drop has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400m people during that period.
Meanwhile the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76 trillion the report concluded. In addition of the 62 wealthiest, just nine are women.
Oxfam said that although world leaders have increasingly talked about the need to tackle inequality, the gap between the richest and the rest has widened dramatically in the past 12 months.
In fact its prediction – made ahead of last year’s Davos – that the 1% would soon own more than the rest of us by 2016, actually came true in 2015, a year early.
As a result the charity is calling for urgent action to tackle the inequality crisis and reverse the dramatic fall in wealth of the poorest half of the world.
It is urging world leaders to adopt a three-pronged approach – cracking down on tax dodging, increased investment in public services and action to boost the income of the lowest paid.
As a priority, it is calling for an end to the era of tax havens which has seen increasing use of offshore centres by rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share to society.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB chief executive, said that it is “simply unacceptable” that the poorest half of the world population owns no more than a small group of the global super-rich.
He added: “World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action to ensure that those at the bottom get their fair share of economic growth.
“In a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night we cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an ever bigger slice of the cake.”
Goldring urged that tackling “the veil of secrecy surrounding the UK’s network of tax havens” would be a big step towards ending extreme inequality.
He noted that globally, it is estimated that super-rich individuals have stashed a total of $7.6tr in offshore accounts. If tax were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190bn would be available to governments every year.
One of the other key trends behind rising inequality, set out in its report is the falling share of national income going to workers in almost all developed and most developing countries and a widening gap between pay at the top and the bottom of the income scale.
This particularly affects women, who make up the majority of low paid workers around the world.
Goldring added: added: “Ending extreme poverty requires world leaders to tackle the growing gap between the richest and the rest which has trapped hundreds of millions of people in a life of poverty, hunger and sickness.
“It is no longer good enough for the richest to pretend that their wealth benefits the rest of us when the facts show that the recent explosion in the wealth of the super-rich has come at the expense of the poorest.”