Just 62 billionaires now hold as much wealth as almost half the world's population. And, before 2016 is out, it's likely this global 1% will be worth as much as everyone else combined.
So says a new report from Oxfam, the U.K. charity. Using data from Credit Suisse, it shows the widening gulf between a small elite and the rest of humanity, and how a certain set of policies—from taxes to minimum wage levels—are contributing to the yawning gap.
In 2014, the 1% had assets amounting to 48% of all wealth, with most of the remainder held by the next 20%. The bottom 80% had just 5.5% of wealth. Since 2010, the richest 80 individuals on the Forbes list—including Michael Bloomberg and Carl Icahn—have seen their assets jump by $600 billion, while the rest of the global population has seen its wealth decrease. That's a reversal from the 2002 to 2010, when the bottom 50% saw its wealth go up. In 2010, Oxfam calculates, 388 billionaires held assets equal to 50% of the world's population. The number of billionaires has since dropped ever since, while the wealth has been consolidated among fewer of them.
Oxfam argues that inequality is not only a moral wrong. It also weakens economic growth, as ordinary people aren't spending in the economy as they might. Inequality, in other words, ultimately affects the profits of the very companies the billionaires operate.
To reduce inequality, Oxfam argues for closing international tax loopholes and improving tax governance, for beefing up public services and social protections, and for closing pay ratios so that the highest earners stay within a 20-to-1 limit compared to median earners. It also calls for closing the gender pay gap and ensuring equal inheritance and land rights for women around the world. In addition, it wants to see pharmaceutical companies pay more attention to health problems in poor countries, rather than devoting most of the R&D to richer countries.
Read the whole report here.