Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby. | Photo: Screenshot
22 November 2016
As global crises of climate change, forced migration and conflict continue to heat up, battering the planet’s most vulnerable, the age-old story remains true: the world’s rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer, and the trend is only expected to continue, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The Global Wealth Report 2016 from the Credit Suisse Research Institute finds that wealth inequality is on the rise, with the bottom poorest half of the world’s adults in control of less wealth than the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, the richest 10 percent of the world enjoyed a boost from the 2008 financial crisis and now own a whopping 89 percent of all assets.
Vast wealth inequality is a familiar story, but the levels of economic disparity in 2016 remain shocking.
“This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies and holding back the fight against poverty,” Oxfam’s head of inequality policy, Max Lawson, said in a statement in response to the new report.
The report also details how wealth distribution affects different regions, with unsurprising concentrations of lower income people in India and Africa. The wealthiest 10 percent of adults are mostly in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
Data on China shows great inequality as home to both 9 percent of the world’s wealthiest top 1 percent — a higher percentage than France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom — and over 10 percent of the poorest tenth of the population. Meanwhile, in Latin America, adults are fairly evenly spread across the wealth spectrum.
The report comes as global wealth inequality is increasingly in the spotlight with economic factors like debt crises in countries like Greece and Spain, recessions in countries such as Brazil, and a global slump in commodity prices putting pressure on economies and showing cracks in the system as the most vulnerable suffer most. The issue increasingly finds its way into political rhetoric, but concrete solutions remain evasive.
“Political concerns about inequality are not being translated into the action needed to give hope and opportunities to the millions who have been left behind,” Lawson continued. “Governments must act now by cracking down on tax dodging, increasing investment in public services and boosting the income of the lowest paid.”
And it’s not just an issue to be on the agenda in the Global South — some of the world’s poorest are increasingly found in high-income countries. The bottom 20 percent of adults, currently sitting around 1 billion people, own no more than US$248, while the poorest half of the world, about 2.4 billion adults, own less than US$2,222. The majority of these group are concentrated in Africa and India, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, together making up 70 percent of the poorest half of the world. The remaining 30 percent of spread out across China, Europe, Latin America and North America.
The report predicts that the number of millionaires in the world will hit a record high of 45.1 million in the next five years, while the number of billionaires will increase by 945 for a total of 3,000 around the world. The middle class will be the fastest-growing income group.