Just 8 Men Own Same Wealth As Half The World

Monday, January 16, 2017

Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published today by International agency Oxfam, to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos.

New and better data on the distribution of global wealth – particularly in India and China – indicates that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought.  Had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet, and not 62, as Oxfam calculated at the time.

As of 2015, Asia’s top 1 percent own 41 percent of Asia’s total wealth1. In Bangladesh, a Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 people working in garment factories. In Vietnam, it would take a decade for their poorest to earn what the wealthiest get in a day.

Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said:

“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy. 

“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”

Oxfam’s report shows how our broken economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite at the expense of the poorest in society, the majority of whom are women. The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years.  To put this figure in perspective – you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2738 years to spend $1 trillion. 

Women who are often employed in low pay sectors, face high levels of discrimination in the work place, often finding themselves at the bottom of the pile. Women also take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work. On current trends, it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men. Oxfam interviewed women working in a garment factory in Vietnam who work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and still struggle to get by on the $1 an hour they earn producing clothes for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands. The CEOs of these companies are some of the highest paid people in the world.

‘An Economy for the 99 percent’ also demonstrates how big business and the super-rich use their money and connections to ensure government policy works for them. For example, governments around the world have been slashing taxes on corporates and the super-rich. In 2014, in competition for Samsung’s investment, Indonesia offered a corporate income tax exemption for 10 years, while Vietnam offered 15 years.

Byanyima said: “The millions of people who have been left behind by our broken economies need solutions, not scapegoats. That is why Oxfam is setting out a new common sense approach to managing our economies so that they work for the majority and not just the fortunate few.”

“Governments are not helpless in the face of technological change and market forces.  If politicians stop obsessing with GDP, and focus on delivering for all their citizens and not just a wealthy few, a better future is possible for everyone.”

Oxfam is also calling on business leaders to play their part in building a human economy. The World Economic Forum has responsive and responsible leadership as its key theme this year.  They can make a start by committing to pay their fair share of tax and by ensuring their businesses pay a living wage.  People around the global can also join the campaign at www.evenitup.org.

1From Oxfam (2015) report, “Underpaid and Undervalued: how inequality defines women’s work in Asia”

Notes to editors: 

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from the 17 – 20 January 2017 to highlight the urgent need for action to tackle inequality.   For more information on WEF see www.weforum.org

The following materials are available for download here: https://oxfam.box.com/v/an-economy-for-99-percent

Full report and executive summary of ‘An Economy for the 99 percent’
A document outlining the methodology behind the statistics in the report
VNR footage and shot list featuring the stories of people in Kenya, Vietnam and Brazil who face a daily struggle with inequality

The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:

1.    Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
2.    Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
3.    Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
4.    Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
5.    Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
6.    Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
7.    Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle  (net worth $43.6 billion)
8.    Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)

Richest billionaires from Asia, in order of net worth:

Jianlin Wang: Chairman of Dalian Wanda Group (net worth: $28.7B)
Ka-shing Li: Hong Kong business magnate (net worth: $27.1 B)
Shau Kee Lee: Hong Kong-based real estate tycoon (net worth: $21.5 B)
Jack Ma: Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group (net worth: $20.5 B)
Mukesh Ambani: Chairman of Reliance Industries, Ltd. (net worth: $19.3 B)
Dilip Shangvi: Founder of Sun Pharmaceuticals (net worth: $16.7 B)
Huateng Ma: CEO of Tencent Inc. (net worth: $16.6 B)
Azim Premji: Chairman of Wipro, Ltd. (net worth: $15 B)

Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2016: http://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/index.cfm?fileid...

The wealth of the world’s richest people, and richest billionaires from Asia were calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerenblankfeld/2016/03/01/forbes-billionaire...

Contact information: 

Anna Ratcliff: anna.ratcliff@oxfaminternational.org or +44 (0) 7796993288
Geneva Damayanti: gdamayanti@oxfam.org.uk or +62 (21) 7811 827