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Inequality worsens as world’s richest take 82% of 2017 wealth

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Results of a new global survey commissioned by Oxfam International yesterday demonstrated a groundswell of support for action against inequality.The survey results contained in the report revealed that 82 per cent of the wealth generated last year went to one per cent of the global population made up of richest men, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.
  
The report entitled: “Reward Work, Not Wealth”, obtained by The Guardian, was being launched as political and business elites gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Of the 70,000 people surveyed in 10 countries, nearly two-thirds of all respondents think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be urgently addressed.
 
It also revealed how the global economy enables a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes, while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay.
 
According to the report, billionaire wealth has risen by yearly average of 13 per cent since 2010– six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just two per cent.The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.
 
It revealed that it takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.
 
Also, the report said it would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage, which is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector in 2016.Oxfam’s report outlined the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions.

These include the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders.Speaking on the findings, Executive Director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima, said: “It’s hard to find a political or business leader who doesn’t say they are worried about inequality. It’s even harder to find one who is doing something about it.  Many are actively making things worse by slashing taxes and scrapping labour rights.
 
“People are ready for change. They want to see workers paid a living wage; they want corporations and the super-rich to pay more tax; they want women workers to enjoy the same rights as men; they want a limit on the power and the wealth which sits in the hands of so few. They want action”, he added.
 
According to Byanyima, the billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system, as the people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.
 
“Women workers often find themselves off at the bottom of the heap. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work.

By comparison, nine out of 10 billionaires are men.“Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality. Women in Vietnamese garment factories who work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time.

“Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks. Women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs,” said Byanyima.
 
Following the findings, Oxfam called on governments to ensure our economies work for everyone and not just the fortunate few by limiting returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life.
 
For example, in Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.It also called for the elimination of the gender pay gap and protect the rights of women workers.

At current rates of change, it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.The group also called on governments to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education.Oxfam estimated a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.


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Oxfam International
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