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Top 5 billionaires’ wealth doubles in 3 years while 60% of global population grows poorer

The world’s five richest men added $14 million an hour to their wealth and, at this rate, the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade, Oxfam says 

Top 5 billionaires’ wealth doubles in 3 years while 60% of global population grows poorer
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

The world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes from $405 billion to $869 billion since 2020 while 4.8 billion people, 60% of the global population, are poorer than they were in 2019, a new report on inequality said. 

The report by charity Oxfam said the top five billionaires added $14 million per hour to their wealth and the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade if the current trends continue. 

It will, however, take another 229 years to eradicate poverty. 

The report, Inequality Inc.: How corporate power divides our world and the need for a new era of public action, calls the 2020s the “decade of division” as global pandemic, war, a cost-of-living crisis, and climate breakdown further widens the gap between “an oligarchic few and the vast majority.”

The poorest people are more likely to be women, racialized peoples, and marginalized groups in every society, the report noted. 

Billionaires are now $3.3 trillion or 34% richer than they were at the beginning of this decade of crisis, with their wealth growing three times as fast as the rate of inflation, the report found. 

Using data from Wealth X, Oxfam found that the richest 1% own 43% of all global financial assets. 

In the Middle East, the richest 1% hold 48% of financial wealth; in Asia, the richest 1% own 50% of wealth; and in Europe, the richest 1% own 47% of wealth. 

Looking at the 50 biggest public corporations, billionaires are either the principal shareholders or the CEOs of 34% of these companies, with a total market capitalization of $13.3 trillion. 

For big corporations, the past two decades have been extraordinarily lucrative. The biggest firms experienced an 89% leap in profits in 2021 and 2022.

And 2023 is set to shatter all records as the most profitable yet: 148 of the world’s biggest corporations together raked in $1.8 trillion in total net profits in the year to June 2023, a 52% jump compared to average net profits in 2018-2021, and their windfall profits surged to nearly $700 billion. 

The report finds that for every $100 of profit made by 96 major companies between July 2022 and June 2023, $82 was paid out to rich shareholders. As the profits of the corporations increase, their rich shareholders get richer.

In contrast, hundreds of millions of people are getting poorer as prices are outpacing pay, and their prospects of a better future disappear. 

Climate breakdown, which is mostly driven by the super-rich, is dramatically increasing global inequality, the report noted. 

“We’re witnessing the beginnings of a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the economic shockwaves of pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires’ fortunes boom. This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else,” said Oxfam International interim executive director Amitabh Behar.

The report also highlighted that global inequality—the gap between the Global North and the Global South—has grown for the first time in 25 years.

While only 21% of humanity lives in the countries of the Global North,  these countries are home to 69% of private wealth, and 74% of the world’s billionaire wealth.

Governments are facing a huge debt crisis because of the escalating costs of importing fuel, food, and medicines. 

Low- and lower-middle-income countries are set to pay nearly $500 million a day in interest and debt payments between now and 2029, which is affecting their ability to spend on essential developmental issues. 

These cuts are often felt particularly acutely by women, the Oxfam report said. 

The report recommends that governments should break monopolies, freeing the market from billionaire control. 

“Governments must intervene to break up monopolies, empower workers, tax these massive corporate profits and, crucially, invest in a new era of public goods and services,” said Behar.

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