Wealth is being shared by fewer people than ever before with just eight people controlling the same amount of cash as half the world’s population.
A report by Oxfam to coincide with World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland showed a few wealthy people are worth a combined £350bn, equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.
The aid charity called the findings “grotesque” blaming rising inequality on aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by wealthy companies.
The world’s poorest 50% owned the same in assets as that owned by a group headed by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and Warren Buffett, the renowned investor and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.
The others are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and owner of conglomerate Grupo Carso; Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon; Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook; Larry Ellison, chief executive of US tech firm Oracle; and Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York and founder and owner of the Bloomberg news.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said last week that rising inequality and social polarisation posed two of the biggest risks to the global economy in 2017 and could result in the rolling back of globalisation.
Oxfam said it comes as the vast majority of people in the bottom half of the world’s population were facing a daily struggle to survive, with 70% of them living in low-income countries.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before. It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.
“While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”
Oxfam called for fundamental change to ensure that economies worked for everyone, not just “a privileged few”.
However, Mark Littlewood, director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank, said: “Once again Oxfam has come out with a report that demonises capitalism, conveniently skimming over the fact that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone.”