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Half the world’s wealth in the hands of the richest 1%

Translated Monday 3 February 2014, by Hannah Mosford

Economic inequalities have intensified in the majority of countries since the crisis started, suggests a report published by Oxfam to coincide with the Davos World Economic Forum.

Nearly half (46%) of the world’s wealth is held by just 1% of the population, according to Oxfam’s latest report. With the title "Working for the Few" (link below), the report claims that the 85 richest people possess as much as the poorest half of the population. Their wealth amounts to $110 trillion - 65 times the wealth of the global population’s poorest. According to data collected between 1980 and 2012, the richest 1% have increased their share of the income in 24 out of 26 countries. That means nearly seven out of 10 people now live in a country where economic disparity has grown over the last 30 years. The report suggests that "even if the recession has temporarily dented the portion of global wealth held by the richest, they have recovered over recent years." Consequently, the charity goes on, "governments serve the interests of the richest, while political and economic inequalities continue to widen."

Laying the blame

Since 1980, the richest 1% in China, Portugal, and the USA have more than doubled their share of the national income. Even in those so-called more egalitarian countries such as Sweden and Norway, the share of revenue going to the richest 1% has grown by more than 50%. Oxfam lays the blame for this widening imbalance on financial deregulation, biased tax systems, and laws which facilitate tax evasion. But it has also fixed its sights on austerity measures, on policies which are detrimental to women, and on captured oil and mineral revenues.

The charity foresees the situation getting worse with between 15 and 25 million poor estimated by 2025. It proposes an increase in salaries so as to raise living standards. "Much like our position against austerity measures, we feel it’s in this area that governments will soon have to act," explains Oxfam spokesperson, Leila Bodeux, in the Belgian newspaper, Le Soir.

The equality of opportunities will be no more than an illusion

She also draws a link between extreme economic inequalities and a rich elite who govern to serve their own interests. "Without genuine action to reduce inequality, these privileges and disadvantages will be recycled from generation to generation. We will live in a world where the equality of opportunities will be no more than an illusion," she concluded.

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