Using data from Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook, Oxfam International compiled a study on wealth inequality showing, among other things, that 82% of the wealth created in 2017 went to the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population, while the poorest 50% saw no increase in wealth whatsoever.
The study came just days ahead of the 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where members gather annually to improve the state of the world by engaging “political, business, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”
According to Oxfam, the Forum’s elite are part of the problem.
Attendees include the world’s ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful, from CEOs, entrepreneurs, and economists to celebrities, philanthropists, and heads of state representing Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The WEF values economic policies strong in free trade, open borders, and the capitalist market over nationalism, protectionism, and over-regulation.
The Oxfam report estimates that two-thirds of the world’s billionaires achieved their wealth, not through hard work, but through inheritance, monopoly, and cronyism. Those in developing countries evade taxation by hiding their wealth, some in tax havens such as Panama; others drive down corporate wages and labor rights while lobbying for tax giveaways from politicians. Nine out of ten are male.
Gender discrimination is a factor in wealth inequality as well as international leadership; in fact, only 21% of this year’s 3,000 Davos participants are women. This is a narrow improvement in female representation at the event, which has been in the teens for years.
Oxfam and other critics cite women’s lack of inclusion in exclusive ‘boys club’ summits like Davos that shape global policy, and global corporations that make their wealth off of underpaid female factory workers in countries like Bangladesh and Thailand. However, the WEF made at least a symbolic nod toward gender equality when it announced the names of the 2018 meeting’s seven co-chairs, all of whom were women.
By publishing the report (which the group has done every year since 2013) Oxfam hopes to influence the WEF to start implementing real solutions. Fairer taxation, closing the gender wage gap, instituting a living wage and laborer’s rights, and decreasing executive pay could help bring an end to extreme poverty, they argue.