Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The economic divide between the world's haves and have-nots widened last year, as the planet's billionaires saw their collective wealth increase by $2.5 billion a day while humanity's poorest half saw its wealth drop by 11 percent, a report published Monday by Oxfam showed.
Published a day before the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the "Public Good or Private Wealth" report by the anti-poverty NGO states that the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the 2008 financial crisis while the world's corporations and super rich are "undertaxed."
"Governments have been reducing both the top rate of personal income tax and the rate of corporate income tax over the long term," the report said, adding that if this were reversed, countries could afford "universal public services."
This growing wealth gap is hurting the fight against poverty while damaging nations' economies and stirring public unrest the world over, the report states.
Those worst hit by the growing disparity are women and children, the annual report found, stating that they have the highest need for services such as healthcare and education and the least access to financial services.
"The size of your bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, oh how long you live - yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe," Winnie Byanyim, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a media release. "While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care."
To combat the disparity, Oxfam is calling for the world's super rich to pay an additional 0.5 percent tax. The money raised could educate 262 million children and save some 3.3 million lives, the report said.
"People across the globe are angry and frustrated," Byanyim said. "Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in free healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone - including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked."
The World Economic Forum, also known as the Davos Forum, will be held from Jan. 22-25 when the world's leaders will convene to discuss some of the most pressing issues of the day.