The gap between rich and poor is getting wider, says Oxfam
Inequality between the rich and poor is widening with the richest 1% soon to own more wealth than the other 99% of the world’s population.
Oxfam has released a study ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, saying it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest.
The study shows the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.
On current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.
Inequality has moved up the political agenda amid concerns that the economic recovery since the global downturn of 2008-09 has been accompanied by a squeeze on living standards and an increase in the value of assets owned by the rich, such as property and shares.
Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined
The international agency, whose executive director Winnie Byanyima who will co-chair the Davos summit, warned that the explosion in inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 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.
“Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined? 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.
"In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world.”
Oxfam is also concerned that the lobbying power of big business – especially the finance and banking sectors - is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system and of ensuring intellectual property rules do not lead to the world's poorest being denied life-saving medicines.
Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, chief executive officer of EL Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, called on business leaders meeting in Davos to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.
She said: "Oxfam's report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow.
“It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.”