More than half the world’s wealth will be owned by just one percent of the population by next year as global inequality soars, anti-poverty charity Oxfam predicted on Tuesday in an explosive document on the eve of a major meeting of the world’s political and business elite.
In a report released ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the international elite at Davos in Switzerland, Oxfam said the top tier had seen their share of wealth increase from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014. On current trends, it will exceed 50% in 2016.
Rising inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty, as the world’s biggest companies lobby the United States and European Union for beneficial tax changes at a time when average taxpayers are still footing the bill for the financial crisis, Oxfam said.
The charity’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, who is co-chairing the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, said an explosion in inequality was holding back the fight against poverty.
“Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined?” she said. “The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering, and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”
“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost-free option. Failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality — they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”
While world leaders such as US President Barack Obama and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have talked about tackling extreme economic inequality “we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk,” Byanyima added.
The healthcare and financial services industries spent almost 900 million dollars to lobby the US government for favorable legislation in 2013, and more than 200 million was spent on lobbying in the EU, Oxfam said.
At the same time, one in nine people don’t have enough to eat and more than a billion people live on less than 1.25 a day, Oxfam said, ticking off statistics that paint a grim picture for all but the world’s richest.
The richest 80 individuals in the world had the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire population, some 3.5 billion people, Oxfam said. This was an even bigger concentration at the top than a year ago, when half the world’s wealth was in the hands of 85 of the ultra-rich.
Members of the top one percent had an average wealth of 2.7 million per adult, Oxfam said. In total, the 80 top billionaires have a combined wealth of 1.9 trillion.
The bulk of the world’s remaining wealth was owned by the rest of the richest fifth, while the other 80% shared just 5.5% of the pot, equaling an average wealth of US$3,851 per adult, according to Oxfam’s figures.
Oxfam used data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Datebook, 2013 and 2014, and the Forbes’ annual billionaires list to compile its research.