World inequality has gone out of control, says Oxfam
In a report released yesterday, titled “Time to care unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis,” Oxfam said in 2019, 2153 of the world’s billionaires had more wealth than 4.6billion people combined.
The non-governmental organisation blamed governments for fuelling what it called an inequality crisis, with most massively under-taxing corporations and wealthy individuals, while underfunding vital public services such as healthcare and education.
“This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system that values the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men, more than the billions of hours of the most essential work - the unpaid and underpaid care work done primarily by women and girls around the world,” it said.
Oxfam said the richest 22 men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa.
It warned that the existing economic model had placed vast wealth and power into the hands of a rich few, in part by exploiting the labour of women and girls, and systematically violating their rights.
The report said at the top of the global economy was a small elite who was unimaginably rich.
“Their wealth grows exponentially over time, with little effort, and regardless of whether they add value to society,” the report said. “Meanwhile, at the bottom of the economy, women and girls, especially women and girls living in poverty and from marginalised groups, are putting in 12.5 billion hours every day of care work for free, and countless more for poverty wages. Their work is essential to our communities. It underpins thriving families and a healthy and productive workforce.”
The report cited New World Bank estimates, which showed that almost half of the world’s population lived on less than $5.50 (R80) a day, and the rate of poverty reduction has halved since 2013.
It said once secured, the fortunes of the super-rich took on a momentum of their own, with the wealthy sitting back and watching their fortunes grow with the help of highly paid accountants who delivered an average annual return of 7.4percent over the past 10 years.
It cited Bill Gates as a case in point, charging that despite admirably committing to give his money away, he was still worth nearly $100bn, which is twice what he had when he stood down as head of Microsoft.
“One reason for these outsized returns is a collapse in taxation of the super-rich and the biggest corporations, because of falling tax rates and deliberate tax dodging. At the same time, only 4percent of global tax comes from taxation of wealth, and studies show that the super-rich avoid as much as 30percent of their tax liability,” said the report.
Oxfam called on governments to act now to build a humane economy.
It said the growing gap between rich and poor was undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and tearing societies apart.
Oxfam said inequality was a political choice.
“Governments around the world must act now to build a new, human economy that values what truly matters to society, rather than fuelling an endless pursuit of profit,” it said. “An economy that values the care work of women and girls instead of billionaires’ wealth. An economy that works for everyone, not just a fortunate few.”