The World’s 2,000 Billionaires Could End Extreme Poverty Seven Times Over

According to the latest report from Oxford International, a U.K.-based confederation of twenty independent charities, the world’s 2,000 or so billionaires saw their collective wealth surge by $762 billion — enough to end abject poverty seven times over.  As Time.com reported:

According to separate data compiled by Bloomberg, the top 500 billionaires’ net worth grew 24% to $5.38 trillion in 2017, while the world’s richest person, Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, saw a gain of $33.7 billion.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited.”

Oxfam published the report as global leaders, chief executives and bankers arrive in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Noting that many of the world’s elite say they’re concerned about income inequality, the charity said most governments are “shamefully failing” to improve the matter.

The same report also found that 82 percent of the wealth generated last year went to the world’s richest one percent,  while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth. Here are some other key takeaways:

  • Billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 percent since 2010 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent. The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.

  • 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.

  • It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top 5 companies in the garment sector in 2016.

I am not sure how anyone could justify this arrangement. How can we support an economy arrangement in which a mere handful of the humanity absorbs an unfathomable amount of wealth — more than they know what to do with — while literally half the world — whose labor has produced much of this wealth — remains mired in poverty.

Is it really too much to ask that already-phoneominally wealthy shareholders in just five companies give up just one third of their payouts to up 2.5 million people could enjoy a living wage? Why should the workers who help feed, clothe, supply, and care for us be left to rot while a handful of individuals continue to rake in vast sums of wealth? It is not like they’ll be anywhere near poor by giving up a fraction of their dividends or bonuses. What is the point of it all?

 

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