Multinational charity group Oxfam International has published its annual Global Wealth Inequality report, ahead of the 2020 World Economic Forum being held in Davos this week.
The group’s annual report always has a particular focus on the concentration of wealth on a global scale, with its 2020 research declaring that “economic inequality is out of control”.
According to Oxfam, in 2019 the world’s billionaires – only 2,153 people – had more wealth than 60% of the global population (4.6 billion people). Further, the world’s richest 1% have double the wealth of 90% of the global population.
“This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system that values the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men, more than the billions of hours of the most essential work – the unpaid and underpaid care work done primarily by women and girls around the world,” the charity group said.
The richest 22 men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa, it said, adding that the monetary value of unpaid care work is at least $10.8 trillion, equal to three times the value of the global tech industry.
Echoing its sentiments from previous years, the group called for a progressive tax on the wealthy to reduce the imbalance in wealth.
Its research shows that taxing an additional 0.5% of wealth of the richest 1% over the next 10 years would equal enough investments to create 117 million jobs, particularly in education and health, among other sectors.
“Without decisive action things will get far worse. Ageing populations, cuts in public spending, and climate change threaten to further exacerbate gender and economic inequality and to fuel a spiralling crisis for care and carers.
“While the rich and powerful elite may be able to buy their way out of facing the worst of these crises, the poor and powerless will not,” it said.
Wealth inequality in South Africa
South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world when it comes to wealth distribution.
According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group’s latest affordability index, more than half (55.5%) of the population lives below the upper-bound poverty line (R1,227 a month).
South Africa’s total wealth held by adults in 2019 totalled $770 billion, the 2019 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report showed.
The richest 1% of the adult population (360,270 people) control more than a third of this – $266.4 billion, or 34.6%. The country’s top 5% control $435 billion (56.5% of total wealth) – but exclusive of the one percenters, this is $168.7 billion.
Overall, the top 10% of richest people in South Africa control the majority of wealth in the country – $519.8 billion, or 67.5% of total wealth – but excluding the top 5% mentioned above, this is $84.7 billion.
The biggest portion is still in the hands of the 1%, who control the same amount as wealth as the remaining 32.4 million people of the adult population.
The graph below visualises Credit Suisse’s wealth data for South Africa.