According to this report, the eight wealthiest men in the world hold approximately the same amount of wealth as the 3.6 billion people that make up the poorest half of the global population.
“It is mind-boggling that just 8 men own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, but that’s the sobering reality of 2017,” Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and campaigns, said in a press release about the report. “Such dramatic inequality is trapping millions in poverty, fracturing our societies, and poisoning our politics. We must take urgent action to reverse dangerous inequality here at home and across the world – not accelerate it.”
Wealth Inequality at Home and Abroad
Dramatic wealth inequality isn’t just a problem internationally, it’s an issue here in the United States. There is evidence that things are only getting worse. Here, the wealthiest one percent of the population controls 42 percent of the total wealth. During the years between 1988 and 2011, the bottom 10 percent of the U.S. population saw their incomes rise by $427 on average. But, the wealthiest 10 percent saw an average income growth of $13,490.
A summary of the key findings of the report cites research from the economist Thomas Piketty indicating that global wealth inequality is increasing over time. Piketty found that over the course of the last 30 years, the income of the bottom 50 percent of the population has grown by zero percent, whereas the income of the top one percent has increased by 300 percent.
Last year, Oxfam found that 62 people possessed the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population. Now, just one year later, that wealth is concentrated among just eight billionaires.
The richest person in the world, Bill Gates, has pledged to give much of his wealth away. But, that kind of philanthropy is one individual’s choice, not a solution to the larger problem.
“If billionaires choose to give their money away then that is a good thing,” Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy told Fortune. “But inequality matters and you cannot have a system where billionaires are systematically paying lower rates of tax than their secretary or cleaner.”
Oxfam’s report indicates several changes that might begin to shift the global trend of dramatic income inequality. Here are a few of the suggestions:
- End tax havens for corporations and wealthy individuals. Governments must cooperate to ensure tax and labor laws meet the needs of everyone, not just the rich.
- Support businesses that contribute to “…a sustainable future.” All who contribute to business success should be rewarded for it, including local communities and workers.
- Increase taxes on both high incomes and wealth, to ensure a level playing field. Clamp down on tax-dodging.
- Ensure that research and technology resources are directed in such a way that they benefit everyone, not just the super rich.
- Adjust measurements of economic growth and sustainability to consider, for example, the unpaid work of women worldwide when tracking economic activity and the distribution of wealth.
For more information, see the report An Economy for the 99 Percent from Oxfam.
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