According to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth, the world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population.
In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said last week that rising inequality and social polarization posed two of the biggest risks to the global economy in 2017.
Oxfam argues that this could result in the rolling back of globalization.
According to the report the world’s poorest 50% owned the same in assets as the $426bn owned by a group headed by Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and Warren Buffett, the renowned investor and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.
The others are Carlos Slim Helú: the Mexican telecoms tycoon and owner of conglomerate Grupo Carso; Jeff Bezos: the founder of Amazon; Mark Zuckerberg: the founder of Facebook; Larry Ellison, chief executive of US tech firm Oracle; and Michael Bloomberg; a former mayor of New York and founder and owner of the Bloomberg news and financial information service.
In the mean time, the vast majority of people in the bottom half of the world’s population were facing a daily struggle to survive, with 70% of them living in low-income countries.
As countries are concerned, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark filled the top five places in the WEF’s inclusive development index, with Britain 21st and the US 23rd.
Oxfam’s report was based on data from the Forbes rich list and the investment bank Credit Suisse.
According to Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”
However, Mark Littlewood, director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank, said: “Once again Oxfam have come out with a report that demonises capitalism, conveniently skimming over the fact that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone.”