As the rich elites from around the world gather for the World Economic Forum at Davos, Oxfam released a report highlighting that since 2020, the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes. During the same period, almost five billion people globally have become poorer.
The combined wealth of the top five richest people in the world – Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison and Warren Buffet – have increased by $464bn, or 114%. Over the same period, the total wealth of the poorest 4.77 billion people – making up 60% of the world population – has declined by 0.2% in real terms. The report shockingly reveals that at current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in 10 years.
The four-chapter report describes how the profits of mega-corporations are in turn used to benefit shareholders, at the expense of workers and ordinary people. It reveals how we are living in a “Gilded Age of Division’ where the corporate and monopoly power has exploded inequality and how it also magnifies inequalities of gender and race.
The Oxfam report reveals various intersections of this inequality and how it is supported by white patriarchy. Globally, men own US$105 trillion more wealth than women – the difference in wealth is equivalent to more than four times the size of the US economy. Racialized groups are less likely to own corporations. In the USA, 89% of shares are owned by white people, 1.1% by Black people and 0.5% by Hispanic people. In the USA, the wealth of a typical Black household is just 15.8% of that of a typical white household.
Only 21% of humanity lives in the countries of the Global North, but these countries are home to 69% of private wealth, and 74% of the world’s billionaire wealth. The report also questioned the continued colonial legacy that is evident by the dominance of the West over the wealth of the world.
Commenting on the divided responsibility of environmental degradation, the report stated that the richest 1% globally emit as much carbon pollution as the poorest two-thirds of humanity.
“We’re witnessing the beginnings of a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the economic shockwaves of pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires’ fortunes boom. This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else,” Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International interim Executive Director, said in a statement released with the report.
The report urges the states to focus on reducing inequalities by regulating the corporate sector and keeping a strong hold over public sector goods.