In the years since the economic crisis of 2008, wealth inequality has been an increasingly alarming problem both for scholars and regular people. Last year, the development charity Oxfam estimated that 62 billionaires owned just as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the globe. This month, however, the agency had worse news: a group of just eight men are worth a combined $426 billion, equivalent to the wealth held by 3.6 billion people.
Along with foreign billionaires like the tycoon Carlos Slim and Zara founder Amancio Ortega, American tech giants like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also make up this elite eight. Each of these men saw their wealth increase greatly over 2016, but that’s not the main reason why Oxfam now credits them with earning more money than half the world. According to the agency, poverty in nations like India and China is a more widespread problem than previously thought. Oxfam also found that 70 percent of the global poor reside in low-income countries and face a daily struggle for survival.
The charity’s report goes on to say that rising inequality has led many people to distrust traditional government institutions and politicians. This discontent can then lead to populist reactions at the ballot box, as Great Britain saw with Brexit. Still, challenging such high concentrations of wealth is far from easy. While not even Oxfam has a clear-cut solution for the problem, the organization remains committed to the power of their findings. “This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before,” said Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring. “It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.”
- Can governments and businesses work together to fight rising income inequality?
- Will increasing inequality lead to more political movements like Brexit?
Source: Larry Elliott, “World’s Eight Richest People Have Same Wealth As Poorest 50%,” The Guardian, January 15, 2017. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.