Just when you thought the stats about global inequality could not get any more outrageous, a new analysis reveals that the super-rich 1 percent now own more than the rest of us combined. In fact, the richest 62 people in the world last year held the same amount of wealth as “the bottom half of humanity” who make up about 50 percent of the world’s population.
To put it simply, it means that top billionaires control as much wealth as about 3.5 billion poor people put together.
The report by Oxfam International, an antipoverty advocacy group, is concrete proof that the gap between the rich and poor is widening quickly as wealth becomes more concentrated.
Case in point: In 2010, there were 388 people who owned the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 half of the planet. The number dropped to 80 in 2014 before falling again in 2015.
“It is simply unacceptable that the poorest half of the world population owns no more than a small group of the global super-rich — so few, you could fit them all on a single coach,” explained Oxfam GB Chief Executive Mark Goldring. “World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action to ensure that those at the bottom get their fair share of economic growth. In a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night, we cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an ever bigger slice of the cake.”
Thanks to a broken economic model, deregulation, privatization and financial secrecy in the form of tax havens, the wealth of the poorest half of the planet dropped by 41 percent between 2010 and 2015, while the wealth of the richest 62 individuals increased by $500 billion to $1.76 trillion.
How the super-rich are getting even richer is not much of a secret either. The report claimed that the wealthy are depriving governments of $190 billion in tax revenue every year by stashing away about $7.6 trillion.
“We believe there is a need for commitments from global business leaders and political leaders for major tax reform to get rid of the tax havens,” said Oxfam Australia's Chief Executive Helen Szoke. “There's too much leakage of what should be paid in taxation exacerbating this gap [between rich and poor].”
The unpaid taxes deposited in offshore accounts not only make these individuals even richer, they also rob the state of the resources needed to tackle poverty.
While the annual report serves as a wake-up call for the world leaders, it also lays down a three-pronged approach to reverse the inequality crisis:
1. A crackdown on tax dodging
2. Higher investment in public services
3. Higher wages for the low paid.
Perhaps there is still some time for damage control, but seeing as the governments and monetary bodies around the world have failed to achieve much in the past few years, it seems unlikely that steps will be taken to curb the exacerbating gap between have and have-nots.