World’s Top 1% Obtained 82% of Wealth Generated in 2017

What a horrifying report this is on the status of global inequality. It’s easily one of the most disturbing reports on economic inequality ever released, as it shows that the world economic system has overall been structured to benefit the top 1 percent to an extreme degree.

In 2017, a new billionaire was created every two days and while 82 percent of all wealth created went to the top 1 percent of the world’s richest while zero percent—absolutely nothing—went to the poorest half of the global population.

That troubling information is included in Oxfam’s latest report on global inequality—titled Reward Work, Not Wealth (pdf)—released Monday. In addition to the above, the report details how skyrocketing wealth growth among the already rich coupled with stagnant wages and persistent poverty among the lowest economic rungs of society means that just 42 individuals now hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion poorest people on the planet.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s executive director of Oxfam International. “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.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 percent since 2010 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent. The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.
  • It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.
  • It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top 5 companies in the garment sector in 2016.
  • Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few. Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich, nine out of ten, are men.

The report comes just as the world’s economic and political elite are set to open the World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos, Switzerland. And why the global elite argue the summit’s focus is addressing the world’s most pressing problems, Oxfam found that the amount of new wealth which went to the world’s top one percent in 2017 was roughly $762 billion—a figure large enough, the group points out, to end extreme global poverty seven times over.

What the report ultimately exposes, Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB chief executive, told the Guardian, is a “system that is failing the millions of hardworking people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.”

“For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against,” he added. “If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we—and they—should be willing to pay.”

Not just cataloging and lamenting the metrics of inequality, the new report also puts forth a number of policy solutions that should be embraced by people and governments worldwide to reduce levels of inequality and lift billions of people out of extreme poverty. They include:

  • Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life. For example, in Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.
  • Eliminate the gender pay gap and protect the rights of women workers. At current rates of change, it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.
  • Ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.

Though Oxfam has been calculating global inequality on an annueal basis for more than a decade, the anti-poverty group notes that this year’s report used new data from Credit Suisse and a separate kind of model. Specifically, Oxfam noted, the fact that the world’s 42 richest billionaires have as much wealth as the poorest bottom half “cannot be compared to figures from previous years – including the 2016/17 statistic that eight men owned the same wealth as half the world – because it is based on an updated and expanded data set published by Credit Suisse in November 2017.  When Oxfam recalculated last year’s figures using the latest data we found that 61 people owned the same wealth as half the world in 2016 – and not eight.”

World’s Top 1 Percent Own Over Half of Global Wealth

The world’s top 1 percent has more wealth than the world’s bottom 99 percent, which is confirmed again by the new Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. Anything near that level of inequality is a tremendously immoral and destabilizing force in the world.

Anti-poverty advocates on Tuesday implored world leaders to combat the massive wealth gap described in the annual Global Wealth Report released by Credit Suisse, which showed that the world’s richest one percent own just over half of the global wealth.

“This report highlights the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots—the world’s richest one percent own more than everyone else combined while the poorest half of the population share less than a penny of every pound of wealth,” said Katy Chakrabortty, head of advocacy for Oxfam, in a statement.

At the height of the global financial meltdown in 2008, the world’s richest people held 42.5 percent of the global wealth, compared with 50.1 percent today. Thirty-six million people with over a million dollars make up just 0.7 percent of the global population, but control 46 percent of the world’s $280 trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, 3.5 billion people who make up the world’s least wealthy adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These adults account for 70 percent of people who are of working age.

The group is disproportionately represented in developing countries. “In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100 percent,” according to Credit Suisse’s report.

The Global Wealth Report also presents a dire outlook for the world’s young adults, referred to in the document as “unlucky millennials.” Adults between the ages of 20 and 29 especially “faced the rigors of the financial crisis and the high unemployment that followed in many countries, and have also been widely hammered by high housing prices, rising student debt, and increasing inequality,” according to the report.

Despite being better educated than their parents’ generation, “millennials are not only likely to experience greater challenges in building their wealth over time, but also greater wealth inequality than previous generations.”

“We expect only a minority of high achievers and those in high demand sectors such as technology or finance to effectively overcome the ‘millennial disadvantage’,” said Urs Rohner, Credit Suisse’s chairman, in an interview with the Guardian.

Oxfam noted that the report is just the latest sign that the world’s poorest have the deck stacked against them, recalling the recent release of the Paradise Papers, which showed how the rich hide their wealth in order to avoid paying the taxes that stand to shore up public services that, when well-funded, benefit the whole population.

“The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality—tax dodging by rich individuals and multinationals,” said Chakrabortty. “Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies, and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.”