In 2010, the 388 richest people in the world had the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. By the end of 2014, the gap between the rich and poor had widened so the richest 80 people now had as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people or half the world’s population. (The video says 85 people, but this were based on data from early 2014; data released later in the year reduced the number to 80.)
In Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, Oxfam calculated that the richest 1% of people in the world owned nearly half (48%) of the world’s wealth. The vast majority of the remaining 52% of the world’s wealth was owned by the next 19% of the world’s richest people (which would probably include everybody reading this post) leaving just 5.5% of the world’s wealth for the poorest 80% of people in the world.
According to Oxfam, large companies spend billions on lobbying to create a more favourable and profitable business environment. This is often at the expense of the poor. Just as decreasing poverty and improving the quality of life are the result of deliberate policy and action, so are the increasing inequality in the world and the uneven playing field. If our leaders decided (or were forced to decide) to end the widening gap, it could be done.
In the lead up to the 2015 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Oxfam (Even it up: Time to end extreme inequality) is calling on governments, corporations, institutions and individuals to commit to the following actions:
- Make governments work for citizens and tackle extreme inequality
- Promote women’s economic equality and women’s rights
- Pay workers a living wage and close the gap with skyrocketing executive reward
- Share the tax burden fairly to level the playing field
- Close international tax loopholes and fill holes in tax governance
- Achieve universal free public services by 2020
- Change the global system for research and development and pricing of medicines so everyone has access to appropriate and affordable medicines
- Implement a universal social protection floor
- Target development finance at reducing inequality and poverty, and strengthening the compact between citizens and their government.
I would add that we need to address our addiction to growth, reduce over-consumption in the rich world, and combat consumerism.
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