The world’s richest one per cent raked in 82 per cent of the wealth created last year, while the poorest half of the population received none, Oxfam said on Monday, as the world’s elite prepared to gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
A new report from the charity also found that the wealth of billionaires has grown six times faster than that of ordinary workers since 2010, with another billionaire minted every two days between March 2016 and March last year.
Oxfam used its findings to portray a global economy in which the wealthy few amass ever-greater fortunes, while hundreds of millions of people are “struggling to survive on poverty pay”.
“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said.
Oxfam also emphasised the plight of women workers, who “consistently earn less than men” and often have the lowest paid, least secure jobs. Nine out of 10 billionaires are men, it said.
The report, titled Reward Work, not Wealth, used data from Credit Suisse bank to compare the returns of top executives and shareholders to that of ordinary workers.
It found that chief executives of the top five global fashion brands made in just four days what garment workers in Bangladesh earn over a lifetime.
“The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors,” said Ms Byanyima.
To fight rising inequality, Oxfam called on governments to limit the returns of shareholders and top executives, close the gender pay gap, crackdown on tax avoidance and increase spending on health care and education.
The study was released on the eve of top political and business figures meeting at a luxury Swiss ski resort for the annual World Economic Forum, which this year says it will focus on how to create “a shared future in a fractured world”.
“It’s hard to find a political or business leader who doesn’t say they are worried about inequality,” said Ms Byanyima.
“It’s even harder to find one who is doing something about it. Many are actively making things worse by slashing taxes and scrapping labour rights.”