The world’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people and the world’s richest 1% own more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people.
Those are the latest figures on global inequality from a report released on Monday ahead of an annual meeting of global elites in the mountain resort of Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
As at least some of the world’s 2,153 billionaires rub noses at the World Economic Forum this week, others will be working to communicate another message: the complicity of the global elite in wealth inequality.
The report by the international aid organisation Oxfam states that the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist,” said Amitabh Behar, the CEO of Oxfam India who will be present at Davos.
“[Inequality is at the] heart of fractures and social conflicts all over the world, and no one is fooled,” said Pauline Leclère, Oxfam France’s senior campaigner for tax justice and inequalities.
“Inequality is not someone’s fate. It is the result of social and fiscal policy that reduces the participation of the wealthy [through taxes] and weakens funding for public services.”
Leclère said this is the message that Oxfam will be trying to deliver at Davos.
The non-profit organisation has released an annual report ahead of the famous economic meeting to address mounting inequality since 2014.
This year, Oxfam examined the gender divide as well, highlighting that men worldwide own 50% more wealth than women due to a “sexist and unfair economic system”.
The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa, the report said.
Women often work in sectors that are more insecure and less valued economically, the Oxfam report states.
They do more than 75% of unpaid care work and make up two-thirds of the “care workforce” in nursery and domestic jobs.
“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system,” said Behar.
Few changes in inequality
But overall, their conclusions on inequality remain unchanged.
“Unfortunately, the organisation’s conclusion is the same. Inequality continues to rise in extreme proportions,” Leclère told Euronews, adding that inequality is bad for economies.
Indeed, the director of the International Monetary Fund said at a conference in Washington DC last week that although inequality between countries was decreasing, inside many high-income countries, inequality is growing.
“The gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these,” said Behar.
Though members of civil society say they’re looking to receive concrete results from Davos, they know it’s an uphill battle.
Leclère says NGO members aren’t “fooled” by the events’ big, lofty political speeches. “We’re waiting for them to follow up with action.”