That is the depressing conclusion that Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International has drawn based on the results of a new Oxfam report released on Monday (Jan 22).
The report, which has been discussed in articles on the World Economic Forum website has found that 82 per cent of the wealth created last year went straight into the pockets of the richest one per cent of the population.
The Situation in Asia
In recent decades, the region has experienced great economic growth. In fact, growth in China, other populous Asian nations and Latin America has been credited with reducing income equality between countries – at least by some measures, according to the Oxfam report.
But while inequality may be declining on a global scale, income inequality within most countries has increased over the past 30 years and Asia is no exception. Initial growth in Asian countries was fairly equitable, but a sharp spike in inequality has been observed over the last 15 years. While some countries, such as China, have registered a slight drop in income inequality since 2008, the gap between the top and bottom remains large, the Oxfam report states
Wealth inequality, on the other hand, presents a larger problem. Even on a global scale, wealth inequality is on the rise – as Oxfam’s findings clearly show- and within countries, it is much higher than income inequality. For example, Indonesia’s four richest men own more wealth than the bottom one million people, while in China, the amount of wealth owned by the top 10% of the population has increased to the point where it is little different from the United States, the reports says.
For those pointing to the reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty as evidence of a well-functioning global economic system, Oxfam offers a counterargument. While it is true that the number of people living in extreme poverty – defined as living on $1.90 a day – halved between 1996 and 2015, the situation for many of those lifted out of such dire circumstances remains grim. Often, they remain poorly paid and are in constant danger of falling back into poverty.
For example, garment workers in Myanmar may make twice the amount of those on the extreme poverty line but still struggle to afford food and medical care. Similarly, those living on $2 in India may be living above the poverty line, but have a mortality rate three times that of the global average.