Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world, new Oxfam report reveals

Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world, new Oxfam report reveals

  • Gap between rich and poor bigger than previously thought
  • Research published as World Economic Forum meets this week in Davos, Switzerland
  • We need global economy that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent

Monday 16 January, 2017

Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, according to a new report published by Oxfam as political and business leaders meet this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

An Economy for the 99 Percent’ shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been thought thanks to new and better data on global wealth. Since 2015, the richest one percent has owned more wealth than the other 99 percent combined. Oxfam says this concentration of wealth at the top is holding back progress in ending global poverty. The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years. Someone would have to spend over €1 million a day for 2,738 years to spend a trillion euro. 

The report also details how governments are facilitating big corporations and the super-rich to dodge taxes and use their power to influence politics – which is fuelling the inequality crisis.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of just eight men – so few they would fit on a golf buggy – when one in nine people on this planet go to bed hungry every night. Public anger is already creating political shockwaves across the globe with inequality cited as a significant factor in the election of Donald Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK. People are tired of a system which seems rigged against them, where big business and the super-rich use their money and connections to ensure government policy works for them.

“A fundamental change in the way we manage our economies is required so they benefit everyone, not just a fortunate few. We need a global economy for the 99 percent, not just the one percent.”

The report highlights how large-scale tax dodging by corporations and wealthy individuals is contributing to inequality with the poorest losing out, as they are most reliant on the public services this forgone revenue could provide. For example, Kenya is losing $1.1bn every year in tax exemptions for corporations, nearly twice its budget for health, in a country where women have a one in 40 chance of dying in childbirth.

Mr Clarken said: “Tax revenues are critical for funding the policies and services that can fight inequality including infrastructure, health and education. The use of tax havens and loopholes or the securing of preferential tax treatment doesn’t just reduce abstract balance sheets. Everyone else is forced to pick up the bill and the human cost is borne by the most vulnerable in society.”

Oxfam Ireland is urging the Irish Government to introduce new mechanisms to increase tax transparency and stop tax dodging by multinational corporations that negatively affects poorer countries.

Mr Clarken continued: “The Irish Government has made efforts to reform the tax system especially in relation to tax dodging by wealthy individuals. We need to tackle aggressive tax planning by corporations, to implement strong controlled foreign company rules to prevent profit-shifting and improve transparency by forcing multinationals to make public where they make profits and pay tax.

“Ireland needs to continue supporting international tax transparency and should back a proposal to create a global tax body to oversee necessary reform.”

Oxfam Ireland is also asking that commitments made in the Programme for Government to ‘develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality’ be put into action.

Mr Clarken said: “With Northern Ireland set to take control of corporation tax in 2018, the Stormont Executive must ensure any new proposed tax regime is fair, open and transparent – and that it does not negatively impact on vulnerable people.

“Any reform of the corporate tax system must contain safeguards preventing corporations from taking advantage to avoid tax owed elsewhere. Otherwise there is a risk that Northern Ireland could be used as a tax haven.”

Mr Clarken added: “Inequality is not inevitable. World leaders can rebalance economies with every budget passed and every rule of law or regulation written or dismantled.”

Oxfam’s report lays out a blueprint for a more human global economy, which includes greater cooperation between governments on tax dodging to generate the funds needed to invest in healthcare, education and job creation, and by dismantling the barriers to women’s economic progress such as access to education and the unfair burden of unpaid care work. On current trends it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men.

People can also join the campaign at www.oxfamireland.org/tax


To arrange an interview, or to request images, video or more information, contact:

Belfast – Phillip Graham: +44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Dublin – Alice Dawson: 00 353 (0) 83 1981 869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

For more news and updates, follow Oxfam Ireland Media on Twitter

Notes to editor

The 2017 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, Switzerland from Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th January.

The following materials are available for download here: https://oxfam.box.com/v/an-economy-for-99-percent

  • Full report and executive summary of ‘An Economy for the 99 Percent’
  • A document outlining the methodology behind the statistics in the report
  • VNR footage and shot list featuring the stories of people in Kenya, Vietnam and Brazil who face a daily struggle with inequality

The Oxfam report, ‘An Economy for the 99 Percent’, will be published early AM on Monday 16th January at http://oxf.am/ZLBe

New and better data on the distribution of global wealth – particularly in India and China – indicates that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought. Had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet, and not 62, as Oxfam calculated at the time. The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth, are:

  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)

Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2016: http://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/index.cfm?fileid=AD6F2B43-B17B-345E-E20A1A254A3E24A5

The wealth of the world’s richest people was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerenblankfeld/2016/03/01/forbes-billionaires-full-list-of-the-500-richest-people-in-the-world-2016/#10a1d6276c24

Other statistics in the report:

  • Corporate tax dodging costs poor countries at least $100 billion every year. This is enough money to provide an education for the 124 million children who aren’t in school and fund healthcare interventions that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children every year.
  • Between 1988 and 2011 the incomes of the poorest 10 percent increased by just $65, while the incomes of the richest 1 percent grew by $11,800 – 182 times as much. 
  • The world’s 10 biggest corporations – including Wal-Mart, Shell and Apple – have a combined revenue greater than the government revenue of 180 countries combined, in a list which includes Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, Colombia, Greece, South Africa, Iraq and Vietnam.
  • 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 a day
  • Had action been taken to reduce the gap between rich and poor, 700 million fewer people would have been living in poverty at the end of the last decade.
  • Oxfam interviewed women working in a garment factory in Vietnam who work 12 hours a day, six days a week and still struggle to get by on the $1 an hour they earn producing clothes for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands.
  • The major corporate shareholders of big businesses are private equity firms and hedge funds – not pension funds. Thirty years ago pension funds owned 30 percent of share in the UK – now they own just 3 percent
  • In the UK around 10 percent of company profits were returned to shareholders in 1970 – now it is 70 percent.
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