There are more than two thousand billionaires in the world today and they have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population, reveals a new report from Oxfam. The report is being launched as political and business elites, including President Trump, head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.
The report, ‘Time to Care’, outlines how global inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast, with the number of billionaires having doubled in the last decade. The report also shows how our sexist economies are fuelling the inequality crisis —enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly poor women and girls.
"Another year, another indication that the inequality crisis is spiralling out of control. And despite repeated warnings about inequality, governments have not reversed its course,” said Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam America. “Some governments, especially the US, are actually exacerbating inequality by cutting taxes for the richest and for corporations while slashing public services and safety nets – such as healthcare and education – that actually fight inequality.”
In Davos, President Trump will do a victory lap with the primary beneficiaries of his policy agenda, which has largely focused on boosting the incomes of the extremely wealthy while doing grave damage to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
Oxfam estimates that the richest 22 men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa, and that women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry. Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and child care, education and health.
“Women and girls, who spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly, are the backbone of our global economy yet benefit the least from it,” continued O’Brien. “It’s no accident that while most billionaires are men, women handle the care work and dominate the least secure and lowest-paid jobs. Women and girls are subsidizing our sexist economies, enabling rich, white, male billionaires to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of the poorest.”
Globally, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work, like looking after children and the elderly. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload. Across the globe, 42 percent of women cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six percent of men. Women also make up two-thirds of the paid care workforce around the world. Jobs such as nursery workers, domestic workers, and care assistants are often poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll.
In the United States, women spend 37 percent more time on unpaid care than men on an average day. The unequal distribution of this work—work that is essential to for families and societies to thrive—not only limits women’s career choices and economic empowerment, but also affects their overall health and well-being.
“The richest are clearly rigging our economy for themselves, starting with America’s billionaire President,” continued O’Brien. “While the President of the United States is rubbing elbows in Davos with the global elite, his administration is seeking to cut food assistance to nearly a million poor people, while expanding tax loopholes and other benefits for the wealthy and large companies. The way to tackle extreme inequality is for people to demand action from our elected leaders to reverse the capture of our government by wealthy interests and above all to vote.”