By Mark Fairlie
A report by Oxfam has found that economic inequality is on the rise with just 42 individuals holding the same amount of wealth as 3.6 billion people across the globe.
Whilst the worlds wealthiest have seen their revenue rise by 44% in just five years, the poorest half of the population saw a drop of more than a trillion dollars; bringing their combined wealth down by 38%.
The gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of the world is still growing, says the report. Oxfam has stated the figures are proof of a “failing system”.
Economic inequality: an Economy for the 1%
The Oxfam report revealed that the combined wealth of the top forty-two richest billionaires in the world was equal to the total wealth of the poorest 50% of the population.
In 2017, the charity reported that the world’s eight wealthiest people owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet but have since revised this figure to 62. Oxfam chief executive, Mark Goldring, said these constant readjustments of figures was due to reports being based on “the best data available at the time”.
Oxfam base their reports on data from Forbes and the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth datebook. These give the distribution of global wealth backdating around 20 years and highlights today’s vast economic inequality.
They then take into account surveys which assess the value of an individual’s assets, such as property and land, and take away any debts they may owe; leaving them with what the individual actually “owns” without wages or income.
The latest data has shown Oxfam’s previous predictions to be incorrect but, as Goldring stated, “however you look at it, this is an unacceptable level of inequality”.
42 people have more combined wealth than half the world
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index measures and ranks the worth of the world’s richest people. In the last year alone, the top 500 wealthiest people saw a 23% increase – making their combined fortune as high as $5.3 trillion.
There are currently more than 1,500 billionaires in the world. CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, was recently named the richest person in the world – and the richest person in history – after his net worth reached $105 billion in 2017.
The Independent has predicted that, if these top billionaires continue to see similar returns on their wealth, the world could have its first trillionaire in as little as 25 years.
Oxfam has said that this “concentration of wealth at the top is holding back the fight to end global poverty”.
99% of the population only received 18% of the money generated in 2016
It was found that four out of every five dollars generated in 2017 ended up in the 1%’s pocket whilst the poorest half of the population received nothing at all.
The findings reveal “how our economies are rewarding wealth rather than the hard work of millions of people,” says Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam. “The few at the top get richer and richer and the millions at the bottom are trapped in poverty wages.”
Among other reasons for this economic inequality, the charity said tax evasion, a firm influence on policymaking, the erosion of workers’ rights, and cost-cutting were to blame for the growing wealth gap.
Oxfam reported 72% of those surveyed across ten different countries said they believed their governments should “urgently address the income gap between rich and poor”.
The charity has recommended paying the living wage to all workers, promoting women’s economic equality, and fairly sharing the tax burden in order to “level the playing field”. They also believe progressive public spending could be used to help to tackle wealth inequality.
However, there are some critics of the report’s “obsession” with the rich, such as director general at The Institute of Economic Affairs, Mark Littlewood. He said “Higher taxes and redistribution will do nothing to help the poor; wealth is not a fixed pie.
“Richer people are also highly taxed people – reducing their wealth won’t lead to redistribution, it will destroy it to the benefit of no one.”