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“I can starve, but my children can’t” – The true cost of inequality

The figures are staggering. Eighty-two percent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to just one percent of the world’s population. In contrast, the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world didn’t make a penny more. 

Not only that, billionaire wealth grew by $762 billion – that’s enough money to stamp out extreme poverty seven times over. Last year also saw the biggest-ever increase in billionaires, with one person becoming a member of the super-rich club every two days. Moreover, nine out of 10 of these new billionaires were men. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, women provided $10 trillion in unpaid care to support the global economy.

But these are just numbers. The true cost of inequality is revealed through the testimonies of women like Lan. Her story shows the reality of a truly unjust global village, where a small minority controls the majority of the wealth.

Lan is 32 and a mother of two. Her husband can’t work due to illness so she is the family’s sole breadwinner. Her job in the garment industry in Dong Nai province, near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is both exhausting and insecure.  She works at least nine hours a day, six days a week, earning just $1 an hour, to make shoes for global fashion brands. Despite working on 1,200 pairs of shoes a day, she can’t afford to buy even one pair for her 12-year-old son.

Worse still, she is separated from her son and her 15-month-old daughter who live 1,500km away in her home province of Thanh Hoa, where her parents look after them. Lan moved away to work so that her children could have a better future – but her low wages and the high cost of living means that she can’t afford for them to live with her full time. Organising regular visits home is almost impossible too because travel is expensive and Lan is rarely able to take annual leave.

Lan soothes her 15-month-old daughter Ha* in the small room she rents in Dong Nai province near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Ha*, who has been struggling in her mother’s absence, had to take a 34-hour bus ride with her grandmother to visit Lan. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Lan and her 12-year-old son Sang* play with a kitten at her parents’ house in Thanh Hoa province. It’s the first time she has seen her family in nine months. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

"It’s hard because my children cannot live with me,” says Lan. “I feel very sorry for my children. They always ask to come here, but I don't allow it. I cannot afford to raise them here. My son really wants to come live with me and study here. 

“They have to be left with relatives because I don’t have enough money to feed them and pick them up from school. I miss them as I’m far away. I want to be close to my children. 

“It’s hard to say goodbye to kids because they want me to stay. When I’m back at home, I think about my children and I do not want to leave them and go back here to work.”

 She adds:  “I can’t let my children starve or feel that they are not as good as other kids. Well, my kids are not equal to other children because we don’t have money. I can starve, but my children can’t.

 "In my future, I want to work close to home with a steady salary so I can be close to home, close to my children so I can care for them and they can be like their friends. I want to work the hours which have better pay, so I can have my children with me and I can raise them well with good educations. I want my children to be close to their parents so they can have a better life.”

Inequality is keeping people trapped in poverty, but together we can fight it. 

Please join our campaign to Even it Up. 

Thank you. 

*Names have been changed 

More than 80% of new global wealth goes to top 1% while poorest half get nothing, new Oxfam report reveals

Oxfam campaigners set up an ‘inequality restaurant’ in Belfast city centre

Eighty-two percent of wealth generated last year across the world went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half saw their wealth flatline, according to a new Oxfam report published today.

Reward Work, Not Wealth sets out how the very biggest gains were made by billionaires. Oxfam said it was unacceptable and unsustainable for our economies to continue to enable a super-rich minority to accumulate vast wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. It called for a rethink of legal and business models that prioritise shareholder returns over broader social impact.

As political and business elites gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Oxfam campaigners in Belfast city centre set up a mini restaurant – with unequal servings – to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one percent to enjoy the lion’s share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity miss out.

“In the 12 months to March 2017, billionaires’ fortunes grew by a staggering £585 billion [$762 billion] – enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.”

Oxfam has previously identified the role of tax dodging in driving inequality. This year its report highlights how the excessive corporate influence on policy-making, erosion of workers’ rights and relentless drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to investors all contribute to a widening gap between the super-rich and the rest.

Billionaire wealth rose by an average of 13 percent a year between 2006 and 2015 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers. It takes just four days for a CEO of one of the world’s five biggest fashion retailers to earn as much as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime.

Women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-secure forms of work. At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the global gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men. Oxfam has heard from women in Vietnamese garment factories whose low wages force them to live apart from their children, women in the US poultry industry who wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks, and women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of being fired.

Clarken added: “The world has made huge strides forward in ending poverty but progress could be even faster if we did more to break down the barriers that are holding back the world’s poorest people. For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against. If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we – and they – should be willing to pay.

“Leaders should ensure that wealthy individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance, and invest this into essential services like schools and hospitals, and creating jobs for young people.”

A new survey of 70,000 people in ten countries, including the UK, demonstrates huge support for action to tackle inequality. Nearly two-thirds of people – 72 percent in the UK – say they want their government to urgently address the income gap between rich and poor in their country. In the UK, when asked what a typical British CEO earned in comparison to an unskilled worker, people guessed 33 times as much. When asked what the ideal ratio should be, they said 7:1. In some sectors the reality can be very different. FTSE 100 bosses, for example, earn on average 120 times more than the average employee.

Clarken added: “Many leaders say they’re worried about the corrosive effect of inequality but their tough talk too often fades away at the first resistance. Some companies and wealthy individuals are taking steps towards fairer ways of doing business but too many others use their power to protect their own interests. To really transform our economies, we need to look again at the business models and laws that prioritise shareholder returns above wider social benefit.”

Tax avoidance by businesses and wealthy individuals is estimated to cost developing countries and poor regions $170 billion a year – money that could be used to fight poverty and provide public services. In the UK, Oxfam is urging the government to help fight tax dodging by using its upcoming Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to ensure that Britain’s overseas territories publish the owners of companies incorporated on their shores. The Paradise Papers revealed the key role that UK-linked tax havens such as Bermuda play in facilitating global tax avoidance.

ENDS

SUGGESTED CAPTION: Table for one percent... Ahead of this week’s meeting of the world’s elite in Davos, Oxfam campaigners on inequality set up a mini restaurant in Belfast city centre to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor. Eighty-two percent of new global wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half saw no increase, according to a new Oxfam report. Photo by Press Eye/Darren Kidd.

More photos available for media use via: https://oxfam.box.com/v/BelfastPhotoStuntDavos2018

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact:

Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

Inequality in numbers:

·         In 2017 it took just three days for the UK’s top bosses to make more money than the typical UK full-time worker will earn all year, according to The High Pay Centre.

·         In Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.

·         Eighty-two percent of new wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half’s share of wealth flatlined.

·         Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire created every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide.

·         The increase in billionaires’ wealth in the year up to last March was enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.

·         In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13% a year – almost six times faster.

·         By the end of the 4-day Davos meeting, billionaires’ fortunes could swell by an estimated $8 billion. This is enough money to lift 66 million people out of poverty for the year.

·         A CEO of one of the world’s five biggest global fashion retailers earns as much in four days as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime

·         At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.

·         Cracking down on tax avoidance by wealthy corporations and individuals could save developing countries and the world’s poorest regions an estimated $170 billion a year – money desperately needed for schools and hospitals.  

The embargoed report and methodology are available for download. https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/eosi27xj7nxuyywysr06d734ct1xyuev

Table showing distribution of new global wealth: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15NMFNjFFWQCyimLPK_V3eAF0stTVn3md/view

Case study footage and photos available: Lan, a worker in a Vietnam factory supplying global fashion brands, sews 1200 pairs of trainers a day for around $1 [74p] an hour. https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=34775&k=ae837a41d2

Reward Work, Not Wealth will be published online. The report includes case studies of workers around the world interviewed by Oxfam about their pay and conditions.

See the report and methodology note for more information about Oxfam’s statistics.

·         Calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2017. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2017.

·         The real increase in global wealth between July 2016 and June 2017 was $9.2 trillion [£7.3 trn], of which $7.6 trillion [£6 trn] (82 percent) went to the top one percent of the population and the remainder to the rest of the top 20 percent.

·         The top five largest publicly listed apparel retailers (excluding department stores) by sales are listed on the 2017 Forbes Global 2000 list of The World’s Biggest Public Companies.

·         Oxfam uses World Bank data to calculate how much it would cost to raise the income of everyone living in extreme poverty to above $1.90 a day. This is only one measure - ending poverty will require a range of actions.

·         RIWI and YouGov conducted the online survey of 70,000 people in ten countries: India, Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Morocco, Netherlands and Denmark. In the UK 3,016 adults were surveyed online and the sample size for the control group was 1,004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between October and November 2017. The figures are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

The High Pay Centre has calculated ratios for UK CEO to worker average wages.

The UN estimates that tax avoidance by businesses costs developing countries $100bn a year. Economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world’s poorest regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America – lose $70bn in annual revenue due to wealthy individuals’ use of tax havens.

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill is expected to reach Report Stage in the House of Commons in March. Oxfam is urging the government to accept an amendment that would ensure Britain’s overseas territories publish public registers of beneficial ownership of companies.

The sterling conversion of $762bn to £585bn was calculated based on the average FX rate GBP:USD between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017.

Yemen still starved of food and fuel despite month-long suspension of blockade

Ireland donated €4.8 million last year to world’s worst humanitarian crisis

18th January, 2018

Despite last month’s temporary lifting of the Saudi led-coalition blockade of Yemen’s northern ports, in the past three and a half weeks only 18 per cent of the country’s monthly fuel needs and just over half its monthly food needs have been imported through these ports, Oxfam said today.

These ports provide most of the goods the country needs to import with 80 per cent of all goods coming through Hodeida, one of the northern ports. Ninety per cent of the country’s food has to be imported. The arrival of much-needed new cranes in Hodeida is very welcome and crucial to speeding up supplies through the port. But the continued restrictions of vital supplies further endangers the 8.4 million people living on the brink of famine.

Last November, Irish Aid announced additional funding of €750,000 to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Fund. This brought Ireland’s total direct humanitarian support to Yemen to over €4.8 million for 2017, and almost €11.3m since the conflict began. In addition, last year, Ireland is the fifth largest donor to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, which has allocated USD $25.6m to Yemen.

Oxfam warned of a catastrophic deterioration in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak on record. The organization said that the lives of 22 million people in need of aid will continue to deteriorate if there is not a significant rise in the imports of the vital food, fuel and medicine. On the 19 January the blockade will have been lifted for a month and Oxfam is calling for all ports to remain open to the uninterrupted flow of commercial and humanitarian goods.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s CEO said; “The wanton disregard on all sides of this conflict for the lives of ordinary families struggling to cope after more than a 1,000 days of war is nothing short of an international scandal. This is a war waged with 21st century hi-tech weapons, but the tactic of starvation is from the Dark Ages. The international community must come together and take a stand against barbarism. Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said “There should be an immediate UN Security Council resolution calling for a full unrestricted opening of ports to commercial and humanitarian goods, an immediate ceasefire and redoubling efforts for peace talks.”

While the blockade has been temporarily lifted, 190,000 tonnes of food arrived at the main northern ports between 20 December and 15 January, compared with the estimated monthly food needs of 350,000 tonnes, according to the UN, shipping agencies and port authorities. Fuel imports over the same period were 97,000 tonnes compared with an estimated monthly fuel needs of 544,000 tonnes.

Fuel tankers and bulk cargo vessels of grain have docked but no container vessels have arrived, meaning that foods essential for survival, such as edible oil, have not entered the ports for some time.

Last month the price of imported cooking oil went up by 61 per cent in Al Baidha, 130 miles south east of the capital Sana’a. The price of wheat rose by 10 per cent across the country over the same period. Food prices have been rising since the conflict started. In Hodeida in the west of the country, the price of barley is three times higher than it was before the conflict, maize is up nearly 140 percent in Hadramout over the same period and the price of sorghum has doubled in Taiz.

Due to the fuel shortages and uncertainty of imports, one of Yemen’s major food companies has reduced its grain milling operations and another is struggling with milling and distributing food inside the country.

Companies face arbitrary restrictions by parties to the conflict when moving food around the country.

The food and fuel import crisis is exacerbated by a collapse in the country’s currency which has seen a dramatic drop in the exchange rate from 250 rials per US dollar to 500 in recent weeks. This will put more pressure on prices and hit the poorest and the families of the estimated 1.24 million civilian servants who have not received, or only occasionally received, a salary since August 2016.

Oxfam said that not only should the blockade be permanently lifted but there should also be an end to unnecessary restrictions on cargo ships coming into port. It called for an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms sales that have been fuelling the conflict and called on backers of the war to use their influence to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.

ENDS

Daniel English

086 3544954

Rohingya Crisis

As the year draws to a close, the traumatic events of 2017 are still very raw for the Rohingya people. Hundreds and thousands of them have fled to Bangladesh since the summer, many wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Their journeys from Myanmar were laden with misery and terror. Refugees witnessed pain and suffering on a massive scale – nightmares they will relive for many years to come. They spoke of rape and sexual violence, of young children being maimed and abused. They fled landmines and bullets and saw their loved ones die in cold blood.

By the end of November, the number of refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh had passed 836,000. Living in overcrowded camps with overflowing latrines and contaminated water, they face heavy rains and the 2018 cyclone season which threatens to wash away shelters and spread water-borne diseases.

Oxfam is on the ground providing safe drinking water, food and other essentials, and is ramping up its work before cyclone season hits.

In the meantime, the voices of those who have fled Myanmar are being heard – and their stories are harrowing.

Razida* (35) carries her 10-month-old son Anisul* through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

“They burned my home and shot my husband dead,” said Razida* who spent six days walking to Bangladesh with her eight children. “The women and children ran away – we were safe, but the attackers surrounded the men and killed them so they couldn’t bring us anything. We had to even borrow money to cross the border.

"I left with all my children, I had to leave. How can I feel anything at all now? I’ve got shelter but no clean water and nowhere to shower. My children are sick and I am sick from worrying."

Fatima takes a rest in Dhokin Para school in Shah Puri Dwip after crossing over from Myanmar by boat two nights ago with her husband and young son. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

When Fatima’s house was burned down, she, her husband and their young son fled for their lives. Fatima was heavily pregnant when the family made their escape – but the lengthy journey was an ordeal for the expectant mother.

“Our house was burned down so we ran and we hid from village to village,” she explained. “I’m eight months pregnant and my feet are swollen. Yesterday when I arrived, I was in a bad condition. The locals fed me and gave me a wash.”

Elsewhere, others spoke of the horrific scenes they witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Setara* (47) with her daughter Nur*. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Setara (47), who made the journey with her parents and seven of her children, said: “We had to walk for three days without food. My girl was almost dying, I thought she would die on the way. We passed so many dead bodies on the way.”

“When I left I only had my children and the clothes on my back,” added Setara, who also revealed how her eldest son had been beaten and had disappeared.

These are the voices of just some of the Rohingya people who have had to flee unimaginable violence in recent months. This new year must offer these refugees a sense of security and hope for the future.

Please give what you can to help mothers like Razida*, Fatima* and Setara* and the families they will do anything to protect.

Thank you.

Greece intends to move 5000 people to mainland but thousands still trapped on islands

The Greek government has said that it intends to transfer 5,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland before the start of winter. Responding to the news, Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece, said:

“This is a very positive step that will save lives. People across Europe are asking for action and now it is imperative that people are moved quickly and in a safe and well-coordinated manner. Winter is just around the corner and thousands of people are still sharing unheated tents exposed to the bitter cold.

“Even if we could move all 5,000 people overnight, reception facilities on the islands will still be over capacity, unsafe and unsanitary."

“The Greek government and EU member states should now end their containment policy which has created a virtual ghetto at Europe's edge.”

Oxfam and 12 other human rights and humanitarian organizations launched a campaign on 1 December calling on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to immediately transfer 7,500 people to the mainland by 21 December and to end the containment policy that traps people on the Greek islands.

As of 1 December, reception facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos were almost 7,200 over capacity: 12,744 people in facilities with a capacity of just 5,576. Last winter, three men died on Lesbos in the six days between January 24 and 30. Although there is still no official statement on the cause of these deaths, they have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from makeshift heating devices in their tents. The Greek government has previously transferred around 2,000 people from Samos and Lesbos to the mainland since early November as an emergency measure.

Oxfam calls for a change of approach in the EU’s Migration Agenda, which sets Europe’s policies on migration. An Oxfam report, based on extensive field experience, highlights the danger, abuse and denial of basic rights that people face linked to the Migration Agenda’s policies. Oxfam has developed eight principles for a more humane and effective approach.

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