The net income of the top 100 billionaires in the world is enough to end extreme poverty four times over! This is according to a report by the charity Oxfam entitled “The Cost Of Inequality: How Wealth And Income Extremes Hurt Us All,”. The report states that efforts to address the issue of global poverty were being hindered by what it terms an “explosion in extreme wealth.”
- The total income of the world’s richest had a income of $240 billion (£150 billion) or a average of $2.4 billion each
- Around a billion people live in extreme poverty which is defined as an income of $1.25 per day, or $450 (£300) a year. This represents 0.000002% of the top ‘earners’ income.
- Jeff Sachs has estimated that it would cost $175 billion a year for 2 years to end extreme poverty.
- Over the last thirty years inequality has grown dramatically in many countries. In the US the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled since 1980 from 10 to 20%. For the top 0.01% it has quadrupled to levels never seen before.
- In the UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens.
- In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which are now the most unequal country on earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid.
- Even in many of the poorest countries, inequality has rapidly grown.
- At a global level, the incomes of the top 1% have increased 60% in twenty years. For the select few in the top 0.01% (600,000 individuals), the growth in income has been even greater.
The ‘have-nots’ and the ‘have-lots’
“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. […] We are an anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth.”
“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true. Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”
“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”
The oxfam report
I would recommend reading the full report from Oxfam. It makes the following points about extreme wealth:
- Extreme wealth and inequality is economically inefficient
- Extreme Wealth and Inequality is Politically Corrosive
- Extreme Wealth and Inequality is Socially Divisive
- Extreme Wealth and Inequality is Environmentally Destructive
- Extreme Wealth and Inequality is not ethical
- Extreme wealth and inequality is not inevitable
I am not against personal wealth as such. I believe that someone who works hard, or an entrepreneur who creates wealth, is entitled to enjoy fruits from their labour; but is a wealthy billionaire really worth 8,000,000 times as much as a poor landless mother struggling for the survival of her family.
I am not an anti-capitalist; but unless there are restrictions stopping the excesses of capitalism, then inequalities will get worse and worse, to the detriment of us all, let alone the extremely poor. In theory the wealth of the whole world could end up in the hands of a single person, leaving the rest of us struggling for survival.
We cannot wait until the top 100 earners voluntarily give up their income to secure an end of extreme poverty. It isn’t going to happen! But as citizens we can put pressure on governments to control rampart capitalism and minimise inequalities of income and resources.
Extreme wealth has become a threat to the enormous amount of work being done to eliminate the worst aspects of global poverty. But that doesn’t let us ‘off the hook’. If we have more than we need to live relatively comfortable lives, free from the desperation of extreme poverty, then we have a part to play.
We can all give of our resources to those in need. The ‘have-lots’ may or may not be doing their part, but the ‘have-enoughs’ have it in their power to bring relief to the ‘have-nots’.
- World’s 100 Richest Earned Enough in 2012 to End Global Poverty 4 Times Over (leaksource.wordpress.com)
- Global Inequality Skyrockets: Report Says Top 1% Have Increased Wealth By 60% Over Last Two Decades (alternet.org)
- Oxfam Says World’s Rich Could End Poverty by Aljazeera (zcommunications.org)
- Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty (aljazeera.com)
- Oxfam: Super rich no help against poverty (upi.com)
- Oxfam hits out at ‘extreme wealth’ (standard.co.uk)
- World’s 100 richest people could ‘end extreme poverty’ (itv.com)
- $240 billion amassed by 100 richest people enough to end extreme poverty four times over: Oxfam (rawstory.com)