The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.
World’s richest 26 own same wealth as poorest half
In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity said 2018 had been a year in which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer, reports the Guardian.
It said the widening gap was hindering the fight against poverty, adding that a 1% wealth tax would raise an estimated 418 billion $ a year – enough to educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent three million deaths.
Billionaires around the world, who have almost doubled in number since the 2008 global financial crisis, saw their combined fortunes grow by $2.5bn a day, while the 3.8 billion people at the bottom of the scale saw their wealth decline by 11 percent in 2018, said the UK-based charity’s annual inequality report.
In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled, Oxfam said, adding between 2017 and 2018, a new billionaire was created every two days.
The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to 112 billion $. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
Analysts found that 3.4 billion people have barely escaped extreme poverty and are living on less than $5.50 a day while making the gap between the rich and the poor even deeper. This all is starting to undermine the fight against poverty, damaging economies, and increasing public anger.
As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61.
So summing up the findings about the seriously disturbing gap between the richest people and the poorest:
- In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.
- Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.
- The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn.
- The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.
Inequality is jeopardising society’s progress
Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Matthew Spencer, said: “The massive fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty is one of the greatest achievements of the past quarter of a century but rising inequality is jeopardising further progress.
He also added that “The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting. Women are dying from the lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor.
The report noted that many governments are deepening this inequality by not making enough investments in public services. Astonishingly 10.000 people die daily due to the lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks.
Oxfam also said governments needed to do more to fund high-quality, universal public services through tackling tax dodging and ensuring fairer taxation, including on corporations and the richest individuals’ wealth, which it said were often undertaxed.