The world’s richest 1% will soon amass wealth that represents more than the entirety of that owned by the rest of the people on our planet, a new report released Monday by the British anti-poverty charity Oxfam claims.
The study, published ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, suggests that by 2016 the gap between the world’s rich and poor will widen to the extent that those at the top of the income pile will control over 50% of total global wealth. That percentage is up from 48% in 2014.
In 2014, the 80 richest people had a collective wealth of $1.9 trillion — a rise of $600 billion, or 50% in four years, according to the report, Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More. The report used data taken from Forbes’ billionaires list and also research conducted by Swiss financial services group Credit Suisse.
The increasing disparity comes as dozens of heads of state and hundreds of chief executives gather in the Swiss Alps under pressure to find ways of reducing inequality. President Obama is also expected on Tuesday in his State of the Union Address to unveil a series of proposals aimed at alleviating economic inequality in the United States.
In Switzerland, Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, who is co-chairing this year’s World Economic Forum meeting, is expected to call at the conference for “urgent action” to address inequality, starting with a clampdown on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals. She will also push for progress toward a global deal on climate change, Oxfam said.
“Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined?” Byanyima said. “The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issue shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.
“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost free option — failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades,” Byanyima added. “The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality — they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”
Byanyima called on leaders including Obama and International Monetary Fund managing Director Christine Lagarde to tackle the issue. Pope Francis has also warned recently over rising inequality levels and addressed the topic while on a visit to the Philippines this weekend.
The report notes that in 2014 there were 1,645 people listed by Forbes as being billionaires and that around 30% of them (492) are from the USA. One-third of billionaires on this list started from a position of wealth, with 34% of them having inherited some or all of their riches. Some 85% of these people are over age 50 and 90% of them are male.