Oxfam Cautions about Growing Inequality
By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
In a recent report published by Oxfam, “the richest 85 individuals in the world hold wealth equal to that owned by the poorest half of the planet’s population.”
This report, “Working for the Few,” encourages measures aimed at reducing the growing global inequality. “Working for the Few” was published before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.In a press release, Oxfam’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said “widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.”
As a result of its research, Oxfam has claimed that tax rates for the richest people around the world have fallen in around 30 countries since the 1970s. Their research was hampered by a lack of data for some countries.In the report, Oxfam also noted that “wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.”
Oxfam estimates that half the world’s wealth, or $110 trillion US, remains with only one percent of the population, and 85 of the richest individuals control $1.7 trillion US.Three such individuals include Mexican telecommunications giant Carlos Slim Helu, whose net wealth is around $73 billion, as well as Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft , whose wealth is around $67 billion, and Warren Buffett at $53.5 billion.
This uneven concentration of the world’s wealth exacerbates inequality, potentially resulting in increased social unrest due to the added pressures of this inequality on the poor and growing middle classes, Oxfam claimed.According to the article by the CBC, Oxfam explained further by saying “this massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems…people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown.”
This concern over growing global inequality has also been expressed by the World Economic Forum, which began discussing these issues at its meeting on 22 January.
According to the article, Oxfam is encouraging the Forum to “support progressive taxation, and to challenge their governments to use tax revenue to provide universal health care, education and social protection for citizens.” Oxfam hopes these measures will address the issue of growing global inequality.
As no citizen of this globalizing world is immune to the touch of systemic social inequality, we can only hope positive action will be forthcoming.