A new report by anti-poverty charity Oxfam found that global wealth inequality widened last year as billionaires increased their fortunes by 12% (or $2.5 billion per day) while the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth dwindle by 11%.
— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) January 21, 2019
In its “Public Good or Private Wealth” report, Oxfam noted that the 26 richest billionaires on Earth now own $1.4 trillion, or as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion humans combined—half the global population. The year before, it was the top 43 people.
Oxfam’s annual study was released as political and business leaders prepare to descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum.
“The size of your bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live – yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
The report noted that since the financial crisis almost a decade ago, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled, with a new one created every two days between 2017 and 2018. The mega-rich and wealthy corporations are also enjoying lower tax rates than they have in decades.
The world's 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity, @Oxfam says, urging governments to hike taxes on the wealthy to fight soaring inequality https://t.co/pStHeSuVxo pic.twitter.com/bu5IjcTtw0
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 21, 2019
“Governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy,” Oxfam said.
Oxfam reports that the group hardest hit by the growing wealth gap are women and girls. “Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail,” it said.
To address many of these problems, Oxfam advocated raising taxes.
It estimated that a 1% wealth tax would be enough to educate 262 million out of school children and to save 3.3 million lives. As of 2015 returns, Oxfam says that only four cents in every tax dollar collected globally came from tariffs on wealth, such as inheritance or property. The report also claims that the rich are hiding $7.6 trillion in offshore accounts
The world’s wealthiest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has a $112 billion fortune. Just 1% of his total wealth is roughly equivalent to the health budget of Ethiopia, a country with a population of 105 million people, Oxfam said.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated,” said Byanyima. “Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in free healthcare and education.”