20 Jan 2015

Top 1% to own half world's wealth - Oxfam

6:31 am on 20 January 2015

More than half the world's wealth will soon be owned by the wealthiest one percent of the population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The research was revealed as business and political leaders gather in the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.

The research was revealed as business and political leaders gather in the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. Photo: AFP

The charity's research shows that the share of the world's wealth owned by the richest one percent increased from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent last year. On current trends, it will exceed 50 percent by 2016.

The research coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the annual gathering of top political and business leaders from around the world.

Oxfam's executive director Winnie Byanyima, who will co-chair the Davos event, said she would use the charity's high-profile role at the forum to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

In a statement ahead of the gathering, Ms Byanyima said the scale of global inequality was "simply staggering" and it was time world leaders took on powerful vested interests.

"Business as usual for the elite isn't a cost-free option - failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades.

"The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality - they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around," she added.

Oxfam based its prediction on data from the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth datebook, which gives the distribution of global wealth going back to 2000. It uses the value of an individual's financial and non-financial assets, mainly property and land, minus their debts to determine what individuals "own".

The data excludes wages or income.

Oxfam is calling on governments to adopt a seven-point plan to tackle inequality, including a clampdown on tax evasion by companies and the move towards a living wage for all workers.

The BBC reports that in order to be part of the wealthiest on percent, a person would need to be worth just over half a million pounds ($NZ970,000).

Oxfam had chosen to use figures which showed the disparity between the richest and the rest of the world in the worst light, it said. The charity had used figures since 2010, when the proportion of wealth held by the wealthiest one percent had risen, wheras from 2000 until 2009, it had fallen every year.

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people).

It said that that comparison had now become even more stark, with the 80 richest people having the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent.

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