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Richest 1% corner 82% of global wealth, says Oxfam report

The wealth of billionaires is estimated to have risen by an average of 13% a year between 2006 and 2015 — six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2018 16:41 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Prime Minster Narendra Modi,World Economic Forum,Oxfam
Slums side by side with high-rises in Thane, India, on November 8, 2017.(Praful Gangurde / HT Photo)

As Prime Minster Narendra Modi and other world leaders gather at the Swiss resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum, an Oxford-based anti-poverty charity has reported that last year, 82% of the global wealth went to the richest 1% of the population.

Titled Reward Work, Not Wealth, the Oxfam report on global economic trends, which was released on Monday, said that the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half across the world saw their wealth flatline, while the biggest gains were made by billionaires.

According to the report, roughly a third of billionaire wealth is derived from inheritance, and over the next 20 years, 500 of the world’s richest people will hand over $2.4 trillion to their heirs – a sum that is larger than India’s GDP.

The wealth of billionaires is estimated to have risen by an average of 13% a year between 2006 and 2015 — six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers. It takes just four days for a CEO of one of the world’s five biggest fashion retailers to earn as much as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime, it said.

“Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days. Billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762 billion in 12 months. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over,” the report said.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB chief executive, said: “Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one percent to enjoy the lion’s share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity misses out.

“The concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hard-working people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.”

In India, those living on $2 (Rs 127) a day have a mortality rate three times the global average, the report said.

Oxfam said over 70,000 people were surveyed in 10 countries across five continents, including India. Most respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the gap between rich and poor in their country is too large.

“Nearly two-thirds of all respondents think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be addressed urgently or very urgently. And many have an even stronger sense of urgency: 73% in India, 79% in South Africa, 85% in Nigeria, and 93% in Mexico believe this,” the report said.

Moreover, people think governments have a central role in addressing this issue. Around 60% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their governments are responsible for reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Goldring said: “Many leaders say they’re worried about the corrosive effect of inequality but their tough talk too often fades away at the first resistance. Some companies and wealthy individuals are taking steps towards fairer ways of doing business but too many others use their power to protect their own interests.

“To really transform our economies, we need to look again at the business models and laws that prioritise shareholder returns above wider social benefit.”

First Published: Jan 22, 2018 16:41 IST