Oxfam report: World’s richest five double their wealth as poorest get poorer

In a startling revelation coinciding with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam has reported that the combined fortunes of the world’s five wealthiest men have soared from $405 billion in 2020 to a staggering $869 billion last year. This surge in wealth comes at a time when nearly five billion people globally have experienced a decline in their financial status.
The elite vs the masses
The report, released as the global elite convene in the Swiss Alpine resort, highlights a concerning trend of increasing wealth concentration amidst widespread economic challenges, including the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.Oxfam’s annual inequality report underscores the growing divide, noting that billionaires have collectively become $3.3 billion richer since 2020.
Influence on tax policies
Oxfam’s critique extends beyond mere wealth accumulation, pointing to the influence wielded by the ultra-rich in shaping tax policies to their advantage. The charity accuses corporations of exacerbating inequality by exploiting workers, evading taxes, and privatizing state functions. This “sustained and highly effective war on taxation” has led to a significant reduction in corporate taxes in OECD countries, dropping from 48 percent in 1980 to just 23.1 percent in 2022.
Power and privilege
The charity’s findings indicate a troubling concentration of power, with corporations influencing everything from wages to food prices and access to medicines. Oxfam’s report states, “Around the world, members of the private sector have relentlessly pushed for lower rates, more loopholes, less transparency, and other measures aimed at enabling companies to contribute as little as possible to public coffers.”
Proposed solutions
To combat this imbalance, Oxfam advocates for the implementation of a wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires, which could potentially generate $1.8 trillion annually. Additionally, the charity calls for capping CEO pay and dismantling private monopolies.
Contrasting fortunes
It estimated that 148 top corporations made $1.8 trillion in profits, 52 percent up on 3-year average, allowing hefty pay-outs to shareholders even as millions of workers faced a cost of living crisis as inflation led to wage cuts in real terms.
“This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.
Impact of inflation and wage stagnation
The report also sheds light on the disproportionate impact of inflation and wage stagnation, with nearly 800 million workers worldwide experiencing a decline in real wages, equating to an average loss of 25 days of annual income per worker. Despite this, the top 148 corporations have seen a 52 percent increase in profits over a three-year average, leading to substantial payouts to shareholders.
Stakeholder capitalism vs shareholder Capitalism
Oxfam’s analysis, drawing on data from sources like the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, reveals a stark contrast to the ideals of “stakeholder capitalism” promoted by the World Economic Forum. This concept advocates for corporations to fulfill societal aspirations alongside profit maximization. However, Oxfam’s Head of Inequality Policy, Max Lawson, argues that the current system of shareholder capitalism is a driving force behind the escalating inequality.
The wealthy elite’s gains
The report highlights the significant wealth gains of individuals such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, LVMH chief Bernard Arnault, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, and investor Warren Buffett. In contrast, a mere 0.4% of the world’s 1,600 largest corporations have committed to paying workers a living wage and supporting it throughout their value chains.
Oxfam’s call to action
As the Davos meetings unfold, Oxfam’s call for governments to rein in corporate power and address the widening wealth gap resonates more than ever. The charity’s proposals for breaking up monopolies, taxing excess profits and wealth, and exploring alternatives to shareholder control, like employee ownership, present a roadmap for tackling the deep-rooted inequalities that plague the global economy.
(With inputs from agencies)

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