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Revealed: the shocking growth of obscene wealth and extreme poverty

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Oxfam report shows that there has been barely any progress to cut wealth inequality in Scotland

The richest one per cent of people globally have pocketed £21 trillion in new wealth since 2020 - nearly twice as much as the other 99% of the world’s population.

A new report by Oxfam outlined in stark detail how extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.

Survival of the Richest highlights shows that the one per cent are getting an ever-greater share of the world’s resources despite already capturing around half of all new wealth during the past decade. In the two years up to December 2021, they grabbed almost two-thirds (63%) of the £34tn of new wealth created. 

The report is published as elites gather in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum.

Inequality is expected to be high on the agenda following the World Bank’s announcement last year that global progress in reducing extreme poverty has come to a halt amid what it expects to be the largest increase in global inequality since World War II.

Oxfam’s report shows that, in the last two years, for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90%, each billionaire gained roughly £1.4bn. The combined fortune of billionaires has increased by a staggering £2bn a day. This comes on top of a decade of historic gains – both the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years.

At the same time, at least 1.7 billion workers live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, roughly one in ten people face hunger, and the climate crisis deepens.

Oxfam is calling for a wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich to claw back crisis gains driven by public money and profiteering.

While Oxfam’s report is global and focused on the most extreme wealth inequality, the wealth gap is vast across the UK and in Scotland too. Oxfam’s analysis found that the richest 1% of Britons hold more wealth than 70% of Britons, while the four richest Britons have more wealth than 20 million Britons.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has embedded its commitment to share wealth more evenly as a National Outcome and created a Poverty and Inequality Commission to propose solutions. Yet there has been barely any progress to cut wealth inequality in Scotland since 2006, with most recent data suggesting the richest 10% of households have 217 times more wealth than the least wealthy 10%. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, nearly one in five people in Scotland were in poverty, with much higher rates for particular groups, including single women with children.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Globally, extreme poverty is increasing for the first time in 25 years and close to a billion people are going hungry. Yet, for billionaires, every day is a bonanza.  

“Governments everywhere cannot standby and leave people to face the injustice of poverty when they could take action to share wealth much more evenly.

“In Scotland, just as across the UK, wealth inequality is stark. It’s long past time for the UK and Scottish governments to better tax wealth and then use these revenues to tackle poverty and the climate crisis.”