If you want stark visual proof of global inequality, here it is. Both halves of this graph represent an equal amount of global wealth. The top half consists of the world’s eight richest billionaires. The bottom half represents the poorest half of humanity – that’s 3.6 billion people.
Such levels of global wealth inequality are “beyond grotesque”, says Oxfam, which released the findings. And that inequality continues to grow: in last year’s report, it took no less than 62 billionaires to equal the wealth of the world’s bottom half.
The eight richest persons in the world – all white and male, by the way – collectively own about $426 billion. That is an average of about $53.25 billion for each. For the bottom half of the graph, the average of their collective wealth works out to less than $120 per person.
You’re certain to know some of the guys in the most exclusive club in the world – the rich list rock stars. Others shun the limelight, preferring wealth without fame. Six are Americans, the other two hailing from Spain and Mexico:
1. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is the richest man in the world. He is worth $75 billion (8.80% of the eight wealthiest billionaires’ fortunes combined).
2. Armancio Ortega ($67 billion, 7.86%) is the richest man in Europe. He is the founder of the Zara clothing brand and chain.
3. Warren Buffett ($60.8 billion, 7.13%) is an investment guru, best known for his holding company Berkshire Hathaway.
4. Carlos Slim ($50 billion, 5.87%) made his money via America Movil, a major telecommunications multinational operating mainly in Latin America.
5. Jeff Bezos ($42.2 billion, 5.30%) founded Amazon, which expanded from a web-based book shop to the undisputed worldwide online retail giant.
6. Mark Zuckerberg ($44.6 billion, 5.23%) founded Facebook back in 2004 and grew it into the world's favorite social media platform.
7. Larry Ellison ($43.6 billion, 5.11%) founded software giant Oracle.
8. Michael Bloomberg ($43.6 billion, 4.69%) founded Bloomberg LP, a financial and media giant, and was mayor of New York City.
The fact that this year it takes only 8 billionaires to equal the wealth of the world's poorest half is due to two main factors. Firstly, it turns out that poverty in China and India is worse than previously thought, meaning the bottom half is even worse off.
But, crucially, the wealth accumulation into the hands of an ever smaller number of super-rich continues. Oxfam points to wage restraints for lower- and middle-class incomes, a focus on increasing returns for shareholders and executives, and tax evasion by the wealthy as factors contributing to the ongoing phenomenon.
Oxfam states that since 2015, the richest 1% of the world own more than the other 99%. released its figures ahead of the World Economic Forum (17-20 January in Davos, Switzerland). The WEF has acknowledged rising inequality as a major risk to the global economy, and a potential driver for a reversal of globalisation.
Countering Oxfam's shocking report, some observers defend global capitalism by pointing out that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone.