Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year as poorest saw their wealth fall

Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year as poorest saw their wealth fall

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.

By Oxfam 

21 January 2019

Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year – or $2.5 billion a day – while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent, reveals a new report from Oxfam today.

The report is being launched as political and business leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Public Good or Private Wealth’ shows the growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and fuelling public anger across the globe

It reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging, on the other.  It also finds that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic 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.”

Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.

At the same time, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people

From Oxfam’s front page

In many countries a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford. Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare. In developing countries, a child from a poor family is twice as likely to die before the age of five than a child from a rich family. In countries like Kenya a child from a rich family will spend twice as long in education as one from a poor family.

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 is available here

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 rights groups, trade unions and non-governmental organizations.  The Alliance is organizing events in over 30 countries from 18-25 January, around the same time as the WEF in Davos, but will be calling on their leaders to listen to ordinary people’s demands and solutions to dealing with inequality – and not to the elites at Davos.

Contact information

Anna Ratcliff,, +44 7796993288

Follow on Twitter: @Oxfam.

Read more

Read Oxfam’s report here

The Guardian’s take on the – shocking – report

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 moral and eradicate the root causes. This will be a perpetuum mobile – until the West, led by the U.S. and its Empire, has itself fallen back thanks to its insatiable greed and lack of compassion.

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