Oxfam revealed some stark facts about global wealth and gender disparity in a recent report the charity organization said shows that “economic inequality is out of control.”
Among the examples of wealth disparity cited in the report, Oxfam said it calculated that all the billionaires in the world held more wealth than 60% of the Earth’s population, or approximately 4.6 billion people. It said that 60% of the world’s population held an estimated $8.2 trillion in aggregate. Based on a Forbes magazine’s report in March 2019, the 2,153 billionaires in the world collectively held approximately $8.7 trillion.
Again, citing Forbes, the report said the average wealth of the five richest people was $90 billion. Oxfam calculated that if a person saved $10,000 a day from the time the first stone of the great pyramids in Egypt was laid until today — some 4,500 years — he or she would still have only one-fifth of the average wealth of the five richest people.
In compiling the statistics on economic inequality, Oxfam said it got much of its information from Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth report. Every year, Credit Suisse publishes its Global Wealth Report and Global Wealth Databook which contains estimates of the wealth holdings of households around the world since 2000.
Oxfam acknowledged any wealth report has shortcomings in that no country has a single comprehensive source of information on personal wealth, while others have few records of any kind. It said that despite this, the Credit Suisse report was still the most comprehensive reference allowing for an in-depth, long-term overview of how household wealth is distributed within and across nations.
The report from Oxfam also said that the gender gap has played a prominent role in the wide disparity of wealth worldwide. To illustrate its point, it said that the richest 22 men in the world hold more wealth than all the women in Africa.
Using data from the 2018 Credit Suisse report, Oxfam found that women hold 40% of the world’s wealth. But this is even less for African women, who hold an estimated 20% to 30% of the continent’s overall wealth. Considering that the region’s total wealth in 2019 was $4.12 trillion, this would mean that African women held at most $1.24 trillion. That falls short of the $1.27 trillion held by the 22 richest men, according to the Forbes list.
Other facts of wealth disparity cited in Oxfam’s report include:
World Bank estimates show that almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day, and the rate of poverty reduction has halved since 2013.
The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people.
If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of the world would be sitting on the floor; a middle-class person in a rich country would be at the height of a chair; and the world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.
The monetary value of women’s unpaid care work globally for women aged 15 and over is at least $10.8 trillion annually – three times the size of the world’s tech industry.
Taxing an additional 0.5% of the wealth of the richest 1% over the next 10 years is equal to investments needed to create 117 million jobs in education, health and elderly care and other sectors, and to close care deficits.
“Governments created the inequality crisis — they must act now to end it,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said in a release. “They must ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure.”