World's Richest 1 Percent Own Twice as Much as Bottom 90 Percent

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The more than twenty-one hundred billionaires globally own more of the world's wealth than the 4.6 billion people at the bottom of the global wealth pyramid, a report from Oxfam International finds.

According to the report, Time to Care: Unpaid and Underpaid Care Work and the Global Inequality Crisis (64 pages, PDF), the number of billionaires globally has doubled over the last decade, while the richest 1 percent have accumulated twice as much wealth as 90 percent of the global population, some 6.9 billion people. And global wealth inequality is worsening, in part because billionaire portfolios have enjoyed an average annual return of 7.4 percent over the last ten years — helped by low taxes and a 31 percent increase in dividends to shareholders — even as the average wage in G7 countries rose only 3 percent. Evidence of "a flawed and sexist economic system" is everywhere, the report's authors write. Indeed, Oxfam estimates that the richest twenty-two men in the world hold more wealth than all the women in Africa; that, globally, men possess 50 percent more in wealth than women; and that women and girls account for 12.5 billion hours a day of unpaid care work — contributing at least $10.8 trillion a year to the global economy.

The study also found that 42 percent of working-age women around the globe exist outside the paid workforce, compared with only 6 percent of men, and that the sixty-seven million domestic workers worldwide — 80 percent of them women — generally lack equal protection in terms of labor laws, minimum wage protections, limits on their work hours, and access to benefits. "The heavy and unequal responsibility of care work perpetuates gender and economic inequalities," the authors argue. "It undermines the health and well-being of predominantly female care workers and limits their economic prosperity by fueling gender gaps in employment and wages. It also leaves women and girls time-poor, unable to meet their basic needs, or to participate in social and political activities."

The report further argues that the amount generated by a wealth tax of 0.5 percent on the richest 1 percent over the next decade would equal the investment needed to create a hundred and seventeen million jobs in sectors such as education, health, and caregiving for children and the elderly.

"Women and girls, who spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly, are the backbone of our global economy yet benefit the least from it," said Paul O'Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy at Oxfam America. "It's no accident that while most billionaires are men, women handle the care work and dominate the least secure and lowest-paid jobs. Women and girls are subsidizing our sexist economies, enabling rich, white, male billionaires to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of the poorest."

(Photo credit: Oxfam International)

"Time to Care: Unpaid and Underpaid Care Work and the Global Inequality Crisis." Oxfam International Report 01/19/2020. "World's Billionaires Have More Wealth Than 4.6 Billion People." Oxfam International Press Release 01/19/2020.