Doing Business | Financing

January 18, 2016

Richest 62 People Own as Much as Half the World's Population: Oxfam

An Oxfam report has found 62 of the world's richest people own the same amount of wealth as half of the world's population, a statistic the charity is using to highlight the scale of global inequality.
Illustration

Illustration

Five years ago the dubious honour of having more wealth than half the world's population went to a group of 388 people.

Oxfam said the wealth of the world's richest 62 people had increased 44 per cent, or about half a trillion dollars, over that time.

During the same period, the wealth of the bottom half has dropped 41 per cent, or over a trillion dollars.

Oxfam released the report ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this week.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said they had not expect the figures to be this high.

"What it's showing us is that the inequality gap is widening at a much faster pace than what we thought, and the concern is that we are really locking billions of people into a cycle of poverty and there aren't the mechanisms there to pull them out of that," she said.

Ms Szoke said one mechanism Oxfam was trying to address is the issue of tax havens.

"About $100 billion annually is lost to poorer nations because corporations put their money into low-tax jurisdictions," Ms Szoke said.

"And once that happens it means that a fair share of tax isn't being paid to support the social infrastructure that's necessary to help people lift out of poverty like education, for example."

Ms Szoke said repairing the global wealth gap would have to be a joint effort between both business and government.

"This is a boldness that's required and we need that boldness at the Davos meeting," she said.

She identified three key things that the World Economic Forum could do:

  • Address the issue of tax practices and clamp down on corporate tax avoidance
  • Ensure that governments used that money to invest in social infrastructure
  • The need for a living wage, rather than a minimum wage

Women often the worst hit by global inequality: Oxford report

The report noted some of the worst hit by global inequality are often women and that if the interests and welfare of women was not addressed, many communities would be let down.

Cassandra Goldie, from the Australian Council for Social Services, said income inequality was not just an issue for the developing world.

"Australia is clearly not at the extreme, for example like the United States, but we are heading in the wrong direction," Dr Goldie said.

"Our own significant report found that right now we've got people in the top 20 per cent income group — they're receiving five times as much income as somebody in the bottom 20 per cent.

"And in terms of wealth, it's far more extreme."

Dr Goldie said there was 70 times more wealth for people in the top group, compared to people in the bottom 20 per cent.

"We know globally that income and wealth inequality becomes increasingly a problem, it's not good for the economy, and it's certainly not good socially," she said.

Text by ABC News
 

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