Eighty-two percent of wealth generated last year across the world went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half saw their wealth flatline, according to a new Oxfam report published today as political and business elites gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum.
The report, Reward Work, Not Wealth sets out how the very biggest gains were made by billionaires.
Oxfam said it was unacceptable and unsustainable for our economies to continue to enable a super-rich minority to accumulate vast wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay.
The report calls for a rethink of legal and business models that prioritise shareholder returns over broader social impact.
Billionaire wealth rose by an average of 13 percent a year between 2006 and 2015 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers.
It takes just four days for a CEO of one of the world’s five biggest fashion retailers to earn as much as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime.
Women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-secure forms of work.
At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the global gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, said: “Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one percent to enjoy the lion’s share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity miss out. The concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hard-working people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.
“The world has made huge strides forward in ending poverty but progress could be even faster if we did more to break down the barriers that are holding back the world’s poorest people. For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against. If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we – and they – should be willing to pay.
“Leaders should ensure that wealthy individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance, and invest this into essential services like schools and hospitals, and creating jobs for young people.”