Obscene Inequality: Eight men’s wealth equals half the world


Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam [on 16 January 2017] to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

New and better data on the distribution of global wealth – particularly in India and China – indicates that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought. Had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet, and not 62, as Oxfam calculated at the time.

Oxfam’s report shows how our broken economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite at the expense of the poorest in society, the majority of whom are women. Women, who are often employed in low pay sectors, face high levels of discrimination in the workplace, take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work, often finding themselves at the bottom of the pile. On current trends it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men.

The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years. To put this figure in perspective – you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2738 years to spend $1 trillion.

An economy for the 99% also reveals how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis. It shows how, in order to maximise returns to their wealthy shareholders, big corporations are dodging taxes, driving down wages for their workers and the prices paid to producers, and investing less in their business.

The report also outlines how the super-rich use a network of tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of tax and an army of wealth managers to secure returns on their investments that would not be available to ordinary savers. Contrary to popular belief, many of the super-rich are not ‘self-made’. Oxfam analysis shows over half the world’s billionaires either inherited their wealth or accumulated it through industries which are prone to corruption and cronyism.

It also demonstrates how big business and the super-rich use their money and connections to ensure government policy works for them.

This article was published by Climate & Capitalism An ecosocialist journal (www.climateandcapitalism.com), on 16 January 2017, and was adapted from Oxfam International News Release, January 16, 2017).

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