Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
The world’s 26 richest people now own as much as poorest 50%. It creates huge problems, misery and conflicts. And it is caused by the West’s version of capitalism and is neither sustainable nor morally defensible, says Jan Oberg.
21 January 2019
‘Public Good or Private Wealth’
It reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said:
“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. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care.”
The report reveals that the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis, with a new billionaire created every two days between 2017 and 2018, yet wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades.
- Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth could raise more money than it would cost to educate the 262 million children out of school and provide healthcare that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.
- Just four cents in every dollar of tax revenue collected globally came from taxes on wealth such as inheritance or property in 2015. These types of tax have been reduced or eliminated in many rich countries and are barely implemented in the developing world.
- Tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent.
- In some countries, such as Brazil, the poorest 10 percent of society are now paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the richest 10 percent.
Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 percent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 percent of corporations. Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most. 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.
Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple, the world’s biggest company.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated. 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 that meets the needs of everyone – including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” added Byanyima.
Notes to the editors
The report, methodology document explaining how Oxfam calculated the figures, and the data set
Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up to date, comprehensive data sources available. Figures on the share of wealth owned by the poorest half of humanity come from Credit Suisse Wealth Databook and relate to the period June 2017 – June 2018. Figures on the very richest in society are based on more detailed data from the Annual Forbes ‘Billionaires List’ and relates to the period March 2017 – March 2018.
Oxfam is proud to be part of the Fight Inequality Alliance – a coalition of social movements, environmental groups, women’s
Anna Ratcliff, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7796993288
Follow on Twitter: @Oxfam.
Jan Oberg comments
What do we – you and I – make of a headline like this – if at all our media bother to prioritize it?
World’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%, says Oxfam
The facts presented here are ethically disturbing. Or should be. They illustrate the concept of structural violence developed by peace researcher Johan Galtung. It’s a kind of violence in which there is not an actor harming or killing but an entire system – structure and mode of operation – that does it.
The West which is the main cause of this global class structure has the wrong priorities and spends incomprehensible resources on militarism instead of on creating a better, more just, global society.
The global poverty and income gap cause conflict, turmoil, terror and refugees. Is it any wonder if people living at the bottom try to go somewhere else and make it?
And then the West spends even more on militarism, on keeping refugees out and terrorism down. Instead of doing something