OTTAWA: Eighty two per cent of global wealth generated last year went to the richest one per cent, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw no increase, according to a new Oxfam report.
‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, was released as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined political and business elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It reveals how our global economic model enables a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes, while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay.
In Canada, billionaire wealth grew by a staggering $28 billion between March 2016 and March 2017. Oxfam Canada estimates that’s enough to pay for universal child care and lift all 4.9 million Canadians out of poverty. Since the year 2000, the number of Canadian billionaires has more than doubled – from 15 to 39 – and their wealth has almost tripled. Not a single one is a woman.
“Canada’s feminist Prime Minister has an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to tackle extreme inequality by championing women’s rights and poverty. Whether at home or abroad, women workers often find themselves at the back of the line in the economy. They consistently earn less than men and do the lowest-paid and least secure forms of work,” said Julie Delahanty, Executive Director at Oxfam Canada.
Oxfam’s report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights, the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making, and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders.
“Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality. Women like Lan, who works in a Vietnamese garment factory far from home for poverty pay, and doesn’t see her children for months at a time. Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear diapers because they are denied toilet breaks. Women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs,” Delahanty said.
Oxfam is asking to:
• Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a ‘living’ wage.
• Eliminate the gender pay gap and protect the rights of wome.
• Ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax and crack down on tax avoidance. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 per cent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child in the world to go to school.
• Increase spending on public services such as child care, health care and education.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “People across the globe are ready for change. They want to see workers paid a living wage; they want corporations and the super-rich to pay more tax; they want women workers to enjoy the same rights as men; they want a limit on the power and the wealth that sits in the hands of so few. They want action.”
India’s richest, just 1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, grossed 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 while the wealth of the poorest half of Indians — some 67 crore — rose by only one per cent, according to the report
The wealth of India’s elite went up last year by Rs 20,913 billion — an amount equivalent to the government’s total budget in 2017-18.
“It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India.
“Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day.
“The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”The report has also found that India’s top 10 per cent of population have 73 per cent of the total wealth in the country.
“Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,891 billion – from Rs 15,778 billion to over Rs 20,676 billion,” it said, adding the amount of Rs 4,891 billion was sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the budget on health and education in all Indian states.
It said 51 billionaires out of the total 101 were aged 65 or above.