Once again the growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by an Oxfam report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.
Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.
As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61.
Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Matthew Spencer, said: “The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting. Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor. It doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life..."
In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.
Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.
The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.
The report said many governments were making inequality worse by failing to invest enough in public services.
It noted that about 10,000 people die for lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks.
Between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% of humanity only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth. By contrast, the top 1% captured 27 cents of every dollar.