The richest 1 per cent of the world’s population will have more combined wealth than the remaining 99 per cent of people next year unless the rapid rise of inequality is stopped, Oxfam warned today ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos this week.
Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said inequality was holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day.
“The scale of global inequality is staggering, and while there has been talk on the global stage about inequality, the reality is that the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast,” Dr Szoke said.
As global leaders gather in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, Oxfam released research on exploding inequality across the globe, a disturbing picture of a rapidly widening chasm between state of the art condos and shantytowns.
This picture is reflected as much in our region as it is worldwide. Data from Forbes shows Asia’s richest person, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-Shing, has amassed USD 31 billion in wealth, while 500 million people barely survive on USD 1.25 a day. It would take one of these poor workers almost 68 million years to earn that much money, even assuming they could save all of their daily earnings.
“It is hard to believe that the Abbott Government is cutting aid to the poorest in this region given the shocking rise in inequality in our own backyard, which we know is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth,” Dr Szoke said.
“The scale of the aid cuts – the biggest in Australia’s history – is so severe that it is hard to imagine any nation or region where Australian aid is currently delivered will be left unaffected. It will take Australia’s aid effort to its lowest level since aid records began, in 1960.”
At the World Economic Forum last year, Oxfam revealed the 85 richest people on the planet then had the same wealth as the poorest 50 per cent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. And, the wealth of the richest 80 has doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.
Oxfam’s International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima is co-chairing the WEF this year and will use her position at Davos to call for urgent action to stem inequality, starting with a crackdown on tax-dodging by corporations.
Oxfam is calling on governments at the WEF to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:
- Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
- Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
- Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
- Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
- Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
- Ensure adequate safety nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
- Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.
“Failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades,” Ms Byanyima said. “The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”
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Note to editors:
The wealth of the richest 80 was calculated using Forbes’ billionaires list http://www.forbes.com/ Annual data taken from list published in March.