DAVOS — India’s richest one per cent hold more than four-times the wealth held by 953 million people who make up for the bottom 70 per cent of the country’s population, while the total wealth of all Indian billionaires is more than the country’s annual Union Budget of Rs. 24,42,200 crore, a new study revealed on Monday.
Ahead of the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), rights group Oxfam releasing its study report ‘Time to Care’ here also said the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 per cent of the planet’s population.
The report flagged that global inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast and the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade, despite their combined wealth having declined in the last year.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar, who is here to represent the Oxfam confederation this year, said, “The gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these. Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women.”
The Oxfam report also said that women and girls are among those who benefit the least from today’s economic system. “They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving.
“It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy,” Mr Behar added.
In fact, the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
The issues of income and gender inequality are expected to figure prominently in discussions at the five-day summit of the WEF, starting Monday. The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report has also warned that the downward pressure on the global economy from macroeconomic fragilities and financial inequality continued to intensify in 2019, PTI reports.
Concern about inequality underlies recent social unrest in almost every continent, although it may be sparked by different tipping points such as corruption, constitutional breaches, or the rise in prices for basic goods and services, as per the WEF report.
Although global inequality has declined over the past three decades, domestic income inequality has risen in many countries, particularly in advanced economies and reached historic highs in some, the Global Risks Report flagged last week.
Besides, direct public investments in the care economy of 2 per cent of GDP would potentially create 11 million new jobs and make up for the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, the report said.
Mr Behar said the gap between rich and poor cannot be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these.
Oxfam said governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle poverty and inequality.
Besides, the governments are also underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload, the report said.
For example, investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life. “Governments created the inequality crisis — they must act now to end it. They must ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure,” said Behar.
The report said, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day — a contribution to the global economy of at least USD 10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
Getting the richest one per cent to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.
Governments must prioritise care as being as important as all other sectors in order to build more human economies that work for everyone, not just a fortunate few, Mr Behar said.
Oxfam said its calculations are based on the latest data sources available, including from the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Databook 2019 and Forbes’ 2019 Billionaires List.