Global wealth inequality widened last year as billionaires increased their fortunes by $2.5 billion per day, anti-poverty campaigner Oxfam said in a new report.
While the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth dwindle by 11%, billionaires’ riches increased by 12%. The mega-wealthy have also become a more concentrated bunch. Last year, the top 26 wealthiest people owned $1.4 trillion, or as much as the 3.8 billion poorest people. The year before, it was the top 43 people.
Oxfam’s annual study, released as political and business leaders prepare to descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum, emphasized that this growing inequality is compromising the fight against poverty.
“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,”said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
Since the financial crisis almost a decade ago, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled, with a new one created every two days between 2017 and 2018. At the same time, the mega-rich and wealthy corporations are enjoying lower tax rates than they have in decades, the report said.
“Governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy,” Oxfam said.
Women and girls are hit hardest by the growing wealth gap, according to Oxfam. “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,” it said.
To address many of these ills, Oxfam advocated raising taxes. It estimated that a 1% wealth tax would be enough to educate 262 million out of school children and to save 3.3 million lives. As of 2015 returns, Oxfam says that only four cents in every tax dollar collected globally came from tariffs on wealth, such as inheritance or property. The report also claims that the rich are hiding $7.6 trillion in offshore accounts
The world’s wealthiest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has a $112 billion fortune. Just 1% of his total wealth is roughly equivalent to the health budget of Ethiopia, a country with a population of 105 million people, Oxfam said.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated,” said Byanyima. “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.”
In last year’s wealth report, Oxfam found that the richest 1% took in 82% of wealth created in 2017.