1. ITV Report

Oxfam warns of 'extreme inequality' in world's wealth

The richest one per cent of the world's population is on track to own more than half of the world's wealth by next year, new figures suggest.

The number of people holding the majority of the world's wealth has fallen from 388 in 2010 to just 80 within four years.

Global charity Oxfam has now urged governments around the world to take action to tackle what it labelled "extreme inequality".

A smaller number of people now own a bigger share of the world's wealth Credit: Reuters/ITV News

Researchers for Oxfam compiled data from Credit Suisse and the Forbes billionaire list to track annual figures and make predictions for the future.

And with the world's richest ploughing staggering amounts into bankrolling powerful politicians and political lobbying activities, the charity has warned of the dangers of the rich holding undue sway over policy and decision making.

While corporations from the finance and insurance sectors spend their resources on lobbying to pursue their own interests, and as a result go on to increase their profits and the associated wealth of those individuals involved in the sector, ordinary people continue to pay the price of the global financial crisis.

– Oxfam report
The report looks at the distribution of world wealth Credit: PA/ITV News

The research claims that the richest one per cent own 48 per cent of the world's wealth - and of the remaining money, 46 per cent is owned by the richest 20 per cent.

The remaining 80 per cent of the world's population share just 5.5 per cent of global wealth, with an average of £2,540 per adult - just 1/700th of the average wealth of those falling into the top percentage.

The figures show that the average wealth per adult is just under £37,000 worldwide, but found massive variations between countries.

In the UK alone, the average wealth per adult has almost doubled since 2000 to £192,000, up from £107,500.

Meanwhile, the global elite of the richest one per cent have an average wealth per adult of £1.8m.

The average wealth per adult in the richest one per cent dwarfs the global average Credit: Reuters/ITV News

The top countries by wealth per adult are:

  • Switzerland: £387,000
  • Australia: £284,000
  • Norway: £237,000
  • United States: £230,000
  • Sweden: £220,000
  • France: £209,000
  • UK: £194,000

Meanwhile, countries in central Africa and south Asia - including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, among others - have an average wealth of below £3,000 per adult (shown on a Credit Suisse diagram as below $5,000).

A map by Credit Suisse shows the distribution of wealth around the world Credit: Credit Suisse

The report states that about a fifth of billionaires hold interests in the financial and insurance sectors, which spend hundreds of millions of pounds every year lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels alone, and hundreds of millions more funding election campaigns in the US.

Meanwhile, it goes on to claim, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries - which also spend huge amounts campaigning for certain policies from government - rewarded billionaires with a 47 per cent rise in collective net wealth in the year ending March 2014 - up to £165bn, from £112bn the previous financial year.

Oxfam is now calling on governments worldwide to adopt its recommendations to tackle what it called "extreme inequality".

The plan calls for authorities to:

  • Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
  • Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  • Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
  • Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  • Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  • Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  • Agree a global goal to tackle inequality