The richest one per cent of people globally are poised to own more than half of all wealth by next year, international inequality watchdog Oxfam warns in a report released today.
The Oxfam was timed to coincide with the start of the upcoming Davos World Economic Forum, an annual gathering in the Swiss city of influential policymakers to discuss issues that affect the global economy.
The group's research shows the share of wealth owned by the richest one per cent has increased from 44 per cent six years ago in 2009 to 48 per cent last year. And the uneven distribution doesn't just spike at the very end — the top 20 per cent are still doing well for themselves.
1 billion people earn $1.25 a day
The poorest 80 per cent own just 5.5 per cent of the world's wealth. That means four-fifths of everyone in the world have an average of $3,851 US to their name.
Although people tend to assume the cutoff to be included in the one per cent would be a gargantuan amount of money, the reality is quite different: the average wealth of the "one percenters" is $2.7 million.
Oxfam made headlines this time last year with a similar report, which found that the world's 85 richest people had as much wealth as the poorest 50 per cent — more than 3.5 billion people. This year, that group was even more rarified — as few as 80 people now own more than the poorest half of all humans on earth do combined.
"One in nine people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day," Oxfam said in a release.
"Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined?" Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's executive director, said in a statement. "The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering, and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast."
The group says a few simple policies could help tip the scales back towards a more equitable solution. They include investing in things like universal health care and education for everyone, ensuring global standards for child and elder care, and closing the wage cap between men and women.
'Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined?' - Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's executive director
The group's paper outlines a few policies that the global community could work towards to make a real dent in inequality. They include
- Clamping down on tax dodgers by closing tax-evading loopholes that are only available to multinational corporations and extremely rich individuals
- Share the global tax burden more fairly by shifting the onus of taxation away from consumption and income and on to capital and wealth.
- Introduce minimum wage standards and work towards a living wage for all workers.
The report cites a few sectors in particular for being major roadblocks to inequality, by using their pre-existing power and influence to sway legislation in their favour.
The health-care and financial services industries spent almost $900 million to lobby the U.S. government for favourable legislation in 2013, and more than $200 million was spent on lobbying in the EU, Oxfam said.
"A small number of people are capturing political power, they have the power," Oxfam's executive director Julie Delahanty said in an interview with CBC News. "The amount of lobbying that's done to ensure that they continue to have that advantage and make that amount of money is part of what the problem is."