7 facts about wealth inequality that will shock and infuriate you
Every year ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam International releases a report on wealth around the world, and it’s something we should all pay attention to. You don’t have to be Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund and one of the WEF board members, to know that things just aren’t right when it comes to wealth distribution. But some of the facts about global wealth inequality included in this year’s report are enough to make you want to take to the streets and burn it all down. Since that’s not recommended, productive, or, you know, legal, a better way to work toward change might be to educate yourself and the people around you. For more impact, you can educate others while pushing for leaders to actually do something about massive gap between how much rich people have compared to how little everyone else has.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement that the “boom” of billionaires outlined in this year’s report isn’t something to gloat about and that we should seriously fear what our president would have done had he not canceled his attendance (due to the government shutdown) to the forum this week. Instead, she says it’s a “symptom of a failing economic system.” She adds:
In response to the findings of their report, Oxfam recommends that world leaders address their taxation systems so that the wealthy and the corporations they run start paying more into the system, which is a move toward making sure that everyone earns a living wage, whether they’re a fast food employee in Milwaukee or a garment worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It really shouldn’t be that hard, right? Here are some shocking facts that should, in a perfect world, convince some billionaires to release their grip on their cold hard cash just a bit, since there’s obviously more than enough to go around.
1A billionaire is *made* every other day.
According to the report, the number of billionaires rose at the rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017. Combined, they amassed more than $762 billion in one year.
2Of course, they’re all men.
There are 2,000 billionaires that have U.S. dollars in the bank and 9 out of 10 of them are men. But it’s not just that men earn more than women. Wealthy women also do less work than poor women, and most of their labor is unpaid. The report estimates, for example, that unpaid household labor by women in Peru could represent about 20 percent of the country’s entire GDP. The writers of the report say:
3It takes just hours for a CEO to earn a yearly wage.
We teach kids to share, but rich people seem to have forgotten these numbers. In America, the three richest people own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the entire population, which is about 160 million people. It takes a CEO just one day to earn what a worker makes in a year.
But it’s not just here: In Nigeria, the richest man earns enough interest on his accounts to personally lift 2 million people out of extreme poverty. In Brazil, someone earning a minimum wage has to work 19 years just to make what the richest .1 percent makes in a single month. In Indonesia, four men own more than 100 million poor people in their country.
4Fast fashion is somewhat to blame.
One standout from the report is that it would take four days for the CEOs of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh would make in her lifetime. An October report from Oxfam found that retailers could demand ethical practices that could lift workers out of poverty and not see a change to their bottom line.
5The rich aren’t “earning” anything.
This year’s report is called “Reward Work, Not Wealth” for a good reason. According to their research, two thirds of billionaire wealth comes from inheritance and monopolies. Over the next two decades, 500 of the richest people in the world will pass down $2.4 trillion to their heirs, which is an amount larger than the GDP of India.
Th sixth richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, made his fortune by creating a monopoly of broadband and mobile communications in Mexico. These people are rich because they use tax laws to keep their money in the family and exploit workers. The whole idea of someone “earning” a tax break on their riches is flawed, since they aren’t doing anything but navigating a minefield of financial regulation.
6Most people are living on $10 a day.
Overall, the number of people living in extreme poverty is going down, which should be a good thing. But because wealth inequality is rising, we’re leaving so many people behind. Oxfam found that if not for wealth inequality, we could have brought 700 million out of extreme poverty. We’re pulling some people out of extreme poverty (which is defined as less than $1.90 a day), but most of the world’s population still lives on anywhere between $2 to $10 a day, meaning they’re still very much locked in a fight to feed their families and survive.
7Just 42 people have basically all the wealth.
Oxfam recalibrated its calculations on how many people own all the wealth based on some new data from Credit Suisse bank. Last year, it said that eight billionaires had the same wealth as half the world’s population, but the new data suggests that there are 42 people who hold as much wealth as the poorest 3.7 billon people in the world. Their wealth has increased 13 percent on average from 2006 to 2015, which means they could end world poverty seven times. Let’s say that again—42 people could end world poverty…if they wanted to.