The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.
In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos
, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” 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 development charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.
Oxfam blamed rising inequality on aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by companies, adding that businesses were too focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives.
Oxfam said 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.
Last year, Oxfam said the world’s 62 richest billionaires were as wealthy as half the world’s population. However, the number has dropped to eight in 2017 because new information shows that poverty in China and India is worse than previously thought, making the bottom 50% even worse off and widening the gap between rich and poor.
With members of the forum due to arrive on Monday in Switzerland, where guests will range from the Chinese president Xi Jinping, to pop star Shakira, the WEF released its own inclusive growth and development report in which it said median income had fallen by an average of 2.4% between 2008 and 2013 across 26 advanced nations.
The Oxfam report added that since 2015 the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. It said that over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1tn to their heirs – a sum larger than the annual GDP of India, a country with 1.3 billion people. Between 1988 and 2011 the incomes of the poorest 10% increased by just $65, while the incomes of the richest 1% grew by $11,800 – 182 times as much.