Global inequality has increased to the extent that the $1.6 trillion combined wealth of the 85 richest people is equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion — half of the world’s population — according to a new report from development charity Oxfam.
And the report, titled Working For The Few, claims that growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favor.
Oxfam called on attendees at this week’s World Economic Forum, which brings together politicians and business leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, to take a personal pledge to tackle the problem by refraining from dodging taxes or using their wealth to seek political favors.
Polling for the report found people in countries around the world — including two-thirds of those questioned in Britain — believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.
Oxfam chief executive Winnie Byanyima said: “It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population — that’s three and a half billion people — own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.
The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favor on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority.
Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report. This “capture of opportunities” by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has led to a situation where 70 percent of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and 1 percent of families own 46 percent of global wealth — almost $126 trillion.