Growing inequality means that the world’s 62 wealthiest people own as much as the poorest half of the planet’s population — approximately 3.6 billion people — according to a new report from Oxfam.
The richest 1% — around 73m out of the world’s 7.3bn people — own as much as everyone else put together.
Some of this is facilitated by governments aiding the wealthiest people and corporations to evade paying tax, with Ireland listed as one of the 11 tax havens most culpable.
Oxfam has produced the figures in time for this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of the world’s financial and political elites, which Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to attend.
The report found that the gap between rich and poor had widened “dramatically” over the past 12 months. As recently as 2010, the combined wealth of the 388 richest people was needed to equal that of the poorest half of the world, but that number has since plummeted to 80 last year and 62 now.
The total wealth of the poorest half of the world fell by $1 trillion since 2010, even though the actual number of people in this group rose by 400m, said the report, ‘An Economy for the 1%’.
Meanwhile, the wealth of the super-rich 62 rose by more than half a trillion dollars over the same period to $1.76tn.
Although the number of people living in extreme poverty halved between 1990 and 2010 globally, the average annual income of the poorest 10% has increased by less than $3 a year over the past 25 years. Globally, the super-rich are estimated to have a total of $7.6tn stashed in offshore accounts, depriving governments of $190bn in tax revenue per year, the report said.
Oxfam Ireland’s chief executive, Jim Clarken, believes the issue should be of particular interest to Irish voters in the coming general election because of the findings of the country’s complicity in tax avoidance.
“Oxfam Ireland is calling on general election candidates to prioritise inequality and inviting voters to join its campaign calling on the next Taoiseach to tackle tax dodging, roll out universal access to healthcare at home, and support it through overseas development assistance, and end the gender pay gap that sees women earn almost 14% less than men in the new programme for government,” he said.
The Oxfam report said the rules of tax have been rewritten by the wealthy, and have “supercharged the ability of the rich and powerful to entrench their wealth”.
“This in turn leads to cuts in vital public services and means governments increasingly rely on indirect taxation, like VAT, which falls disproportionately on the poorest people” said Mr Clerken.
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