At the annual conference of wealthy nations opening this week in Davos, Switzerland, not all the news is good for the bankers, the high-net-worth individuals, the tycoons and the privileged few.
Increasingly, those great concentrations of capital are drawing negative attention from the advocacy organizations who are asking why do the richest 1% of the population take home 82% of all the wealth created?
According to “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” the just released report from Oxfam International, there are now 2,043 billionaires worldwide.” Collectively, their fortunes grew by $762 billion in 2017, while the poorest half of humanity saw no increase in their wealth at all.
“Here’s something we’re rarely told growing up,” said Winnie Byanyima, head of the international confederation of charitable organizations focused on the alleviation of global poverty. “Our world rewards wealth, not hard work or talent.”
“The concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy,” observed Mark Goldring, Oxfam UK’s chief executive. “It’s a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hardworking people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food.”
“It’s hard to find a political or business leader who doesn’t say they are worried about inequality. It’s even harder to find one who is doing something about it,” said Byanyima.
Booming global stock markets have been the main reason for the increase in wealth of those holding financial assets during 2017.
The world belongs to the wealthy and nowhere is this injustice more apparent than in the workplace.
“Corporations are driving down wages and working conditions across the globe to maximize returns for their shareholders,” Oxfam said. “And many of our governments don’t just let this happen, they actively facilitate it. In a frenzied drive for GDP growth, they slash corporate taxes and strip away the rights and protections of workers.”
“There’s a billionaire boom,” said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and campaigns. “A perfect storm is driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom. If such inequality remains unaddressed, it will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society.”
The theme of Davos Forum this year is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” with over 400 sessions over four days.
This year’s opening address will be delivered by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. Donald Trump will be the last speaker to address the forum. His keynote address is scheduled for Friday before the close of the meeting.