The wealthiest have gained a half a trillion dollars in five years
By Barbara Kollmeyer
Oxfam’s report on inequality is aimed at swaying the political and financial elites meeting in Davos this week.
The wealth divide between the world’s richest and poorest is turning into a Grand Canyon.
Last year, just 62 individuals held wealth equivalent to the amount owned by 3.6 billion people, about half the world’s population. That’s according to a new report by Oxfam published Monday, ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which aims to show just how deep the gulf of inequality has become.
“Oxfam’s prediction — made ahead of last year’s Davos — that the 1% would soon own more than the rest of us by 2016, actually came true in 2015, a year early,” the nonprofit said in a statement.
The wealth of those 62 one-percenters has risen by more than half-a-trillion dollars in the last five years, the report said. At the same time, the total owned by the poorest half has fallen by a trillion dollars.
In monetary terms, that club of 62 has seen its riches climb by $542 billion, or 44%, to $1.76 trillion since 2010. That’s as the less-fortunate half has seen its wealth slide by 41%.
“Power and privilege are being used to rig the system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest to levels we have not seen before. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, in a statement.
Some other factoids in the Oxfam report: the daily income of the poorest 10% worldwide has risen by less than a cent every year, and their annual income has risen by less than $3 each year for the past quarter century.
With the report, Oxfam is urging world’s leaders make a big initiative to tackle tax havens. Its release comes as the financial and political elites gather in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, which begins in earnest on Wednesday in Davos.
“Globally, it is estimated that a total of $7.6 trillion of individual’s wealth sits offshore — a 12th of the total. If tax would be paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments every year,” Oxfam said in the report.
The nonprofit also highlighted that 9 out of 10 of this year’s World Economic Forum corporate partners have a presence in at least one tax haven. It estimates that tax dodging by multinational corporations comes at a cost to developing countries of least $100 billion every year. Corporate investment in tax havens almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2014, according to Oxfam.
It took a final jab at wage inequality in the U.S., noting that salaries of chief executive officers at top companies have risen by half since 2009, but the minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25. That’s even as the cost of groceries has shot up 25%, Oxfam noted.
“Given that a solid majority of voters across all political backgrounds support an increase, it seems an obvious thing to do, but Congress isn’t budging,” said Offenheiser.
Here’s one more chart from Oxfam, showing how the number of billionaires in the world has shrunk so much they’d all fit on a bus: