Oxfam Report: Richest 1% wealthier as rest of the world combined

According to Oxford charity Oxfam, global inequality is rapidly increasing. The top 1% now own more than the rest of humanity combined. The richest 62 individuals are even as wealthy as the poorest 3.6 billion people. In light of that development, the NGO stresses the importance of legislating equitable taxation, increasing minimum wages, pursuing women’s economic inequality and expanding public spending.

1760 billion dollar. That is the combined wealth of 62 individual human beings. It is equivalent to the possessions of the economic bottom 50% of the globe. In fact, while half of the planet experienced a 41% decrease in wealth since 2011, the super-rich have expanded their fortune by another 44% since 2010. In 2010 one still had to pool the combined wealth of the richest 388 persons to balance out to the bottom half.  Now, all the people necessary to do that fit in a X90 bus.

While Oxfam praises the ‘fantastic progress’ that has lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty over the last 25 years, it estimates that – had the gap between rich and poor shrunk instead of widened – another 700 million people would have risen above the poverty line. The vast majority of wealth accretion, however, has benefitted the upper 1%.

Oxfam warns that the significance of an ever-growing divide between economic classes should not be underestimated. “Growing economic inequality is bad for us all – it undermines growth and social cohesion” and threatens to reverse progress made under the Millenium Development Goals.

According to the charity, “an economy for the 1%”, so the title of its report, is responsible for the concerning development. Instead of an economy that ensures universal and sustainable prosperity, we find ourselves in a system that protects the economic interests of the few from the many. Tolerating and even facilitating tax evasion for international corporations and wealthy individuals, for instance, has allowed them to avoid their economic and social responsibility. Oxfam estimates that a total of 7.6 trillion dollars are being hidden in tax havens around the world; money, that – if properly taxed – would allow governments to tackle poverty more comprehensively.

Oxfam calls upon policy makers to “start building a human economy that benefits everyone” by establishing equitable taxation: raising taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals and cracking down on tax havens. Apart from that, governments should increase minimum wage, seek to close the gender pay gap, restrict corporate lobbyism and relieve regulatory constraints on the accessibility of medicine. Moreover, investments in the public sector, especially in health and education, should be expanded to counteract growing levels of inequality.

Oxfam’s report was published just before the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which attracts political and business leaders from around the world. It can be accessed here.

Image: Adam Jones (CC BY SA 2.0)