Wealth inequality growing, Oxfam says

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The top 85 richest people in the world are wealthier than the bottom half of the world's population, said Oxfam, the non-profit group based in Switzerland.

In advance of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, which begins Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam released a briefing paper entitled "Working for the Few" that highlights the growing concentration of wealth in the world.


In the past year alone, 210 became billionaires, "joining a select group of 1,426 individuals with a combined net worth of $5.4 trillion," the report said.

Further, the wealthiest 1 percent of the world's people are worth $110 trillion, which is 65 times the wealth of the bottom half of the world's population, the report said.

"This trend may seem surprising in light of the recent global financial crisis. Yet, while the crisis caused a momentary dip in the share of global wealth held by the rich, they have already gained it back, and more. In the United States, the wealthiest 1 percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012 while the bottom 90 percent became poorer," Oxfam said.


In the United States, the top 1 percent own 50.4 percent of the wealth, a disparity unseen since World War l.

The pace of the growing disparity can be seen over the past few decades. If the ratio had remained unchanged since 1980, the report said, everyone in the bottom 99 percent would be worth an additional $6,009 today, the group said.

The trend, further, is not exclusive to the United States. Only two countries, Colombia and the Netherlands, have seen the gap between the rich and the poor shrink in recent years, the report said.

"Even in more egalitarian countries such as Sweden and Norway, the share of income going to the richest 1 percent has increased by more than 50 percent. It is likely that the full concentration of wealth is in fact even worse, as a significant amount of wealth among those at the top of the scale is hidden away in tax havens. It is estimated that $18.5 trillion is held unrecorded and offshore," Oxfam said.

The World Economic Forum said the disparity between the rich and the poor had recently increased in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries traditionally viewed as more egalitarian than others.


"The latest trends in the 2000s showed a widening gap between rich and poor, not only in some of the already high-inequality countries such as Israel and the United States, but also -- for the first time -- in traditionally low-inequality countries, such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden [and other Nordic countries], where inequality grew more than anywhere else in the 2000s," the World Economic Forum said in a release.

Oxfam said it was calling on people to pledge they will not dodge use tax havens to hide income from governments, not use their wealth "to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens" and support taxation on wealth and income.

Oxfam also called on people to "challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens."

The group recommended people demand a living wage, stronger laws to support minimum wages and workers rights. It also recommended "removing the barriers to equal rights and opportunities for women," among other steps.

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