The eight wealthiest individuals in the world own as much as the poorest half of humanity, and the gap between rich and poor is widening, a study by Oxfam International finds.
The report, An Economy for the 99 Percent (48 pages, PDF), found that eight billionaires — all men — have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people on the planet. Based on new data on the global distribution of wealth, particularly in India and China, Oxfam significantly revised down the number of billionaires owning as much as the poorest half of humanity as of a year ago, from sixty-two to nine. Since 2015, the richest 1 percent of the world's population has accumulated more wealth than the rest of the global population combined.
Released to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the report also found that between 1988 and 2011, the incomes of the poorest 10 percent around the world rose by $65, while those of the richest 1 percent rose by $11,800, or 182 times as much. The study argues that corporations and the ultra-rich are fueling inequality by driving down wages; demanding tax breaks or using tax havens at the expense of government services for the poor; maximizing short-term profits; promoting crony capitalism; and using their financial power and connections to influence politics. Calling for a more "human economy, designed for the 99 percent," the report urges governments to increase taxes on wealth and high incomes and invest more in health care, education, and job creation; cooperate with other governments to guarantee decent wages and put an end to tax avoidance; support companies that benefit workers and society, not just shareholders; and dismantle barriers to women's economic progress.
The eight wealthiest individuals on the planet are Microsoft founder Bill Gates (with a net worth of $75 billion); Amancio Ortega, Spanish founder of Inditex ($67 billion); Warren Buffett, CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway ($60.8 billion); Carlos Slim Helú, founder of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Carso ($50 billion); Jeff Bezos, founder, chair, and CEO of Amazon.com ($45.2 billion); Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, chair, and CEO of Facebook ($44.6 billion); Larry Ellison, co-founder and former CEO of Oracle Corp. ( $43.6 billion); and Michael Bloomberg, founder, owner, and CEO of Bloomberg, Inc. ($40 billion).
"It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in ten people survive on less than $2 a day," said Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima. "Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."