The richest 85 multi-billionaires control the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people in the world, according to a report from charity Oxfam.
The gap between the rich and poor is huge.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is listed as the world’s richest man, with a personal fortune estimated at nearly £50 billion – more than the annual GDP of Cuba.
The research reveals 34 Americans are listed among the 85 richest people in the world and seven of them take places in the top 10.
To sit at the top table of the world’s wealthiest individuals, someone has to have cash and assets worth at least £7.6 billion.
Tiny minority control global wealth
Oxfam calculates that half of global wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. Their riches are thought to exceed £66 trillion – 65 times the wealth of the 3.5 billion poorest people out of the world’s population of 7 billion.
Even in the relatively well-off United States, Oxfam reckons the richest 1% grabbed 95% of the wealth generated since 2008, while 90% of the population lost ground and became poorer.
“Fewer people having such a huge concentration of economic resources is a real danger to including the poor in the politics and economies of their countries,” said an Oxfam spokesman.
“This imbalance in the holding of wealth is pushing the rich and poor apart and is stopping nations moving forward together. That is why we are increasingly witnessing social tension and the breakdown of some societies.”
Oxfam also suggests the rich and multinational corporations probably hold more wealth than their investigations uncovered.
Tax havens and other financial secrecy is concealing another £11 trillion – more than the GDP of the USA – says the charity.
Extreme in equality
“If this situation is left as it is, we fear political institutions may be undermined and governments will come to serve the interests of the economic elite to the detriment of the rest of the people,” said the spokesman.
“This extreme inequality is not inevitable but a consequence of the way economies work. This can be reversed to improve the lives of the many if enough people have the will to make it so.”
The report has several recommendations urging the wealthy to change their ways for the benefit of the poor, including:
- Paying taxes in the countries where they are based or where they invest rather than washing the money through tax havens
- Not to gain favour from politicians with their wealth
- For ownership of companies and wealth to be made transparent to everyone
Oxfam also wants the wealthy and the companies they own to treat the poor fairer by offering better wages and contributing more towards social services, like health and education.