The 85 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion: half of the world’s population.
These are the disturbing numbers included in the Working for a Few report provided by Oxfam to the annual gathering of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF itself identified widening inequality and persistent unemployment as two of the top three global threats this coming year.
It may seem like a major oversight for study of a system called capitalism, but economists have paid little attention to the distribution of capital and wealth—and statistics related to this are only collected every few years in Canada. These have shown growing concentrations of wealth and we can expect more when results from the 2012 Survey of Financial Security are published.
The Oxfam report emphasizes that these growing inequalities of wealth and income are undermining political institutions and preventing measures to improve economic growth and reduce poverty around the world.
“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table”
Oxfam is calling on countries to: support progressive taxes on incomes and wealth; crack down on financial secrecy, tax dodging and use of tax; curb the power of the rich to influence political processes; increase transparency and accountability; invest in universal healthcare, education and social protection, provide living wages for all workers; strengthen workers rights; and remove barriers to equal rights and opportunities for women.