Just eight people own more wealth than half of the world, according to a new analysis that highlights the massive gap between the haves and the have-nots.
The eight richest people in the world, all men, together own about $426 billion, according to the report from the charity Oxfam.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: The poorest half of the world’s population, some 3.6 billion people, collectively own about $409 billion in wealth, said the report, the latest installment in a series of annual inequality reports.
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few,” said a statement from Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima.
“Across the world, people are being left behind,” added Byanyima. “Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”
The report said that its estimate of the bottom half’s wealth accounts for people who have negative wealth, or more debt than assets.
The poorest 10 percent of the global population collectively has $1.1 trillion more in debt than it does in assets. That figure gets subtracted from the rest of the bottom half of the world’s population, which collectively has $1.5 trillion in positive net wealth, or more assets than debt.
To be sure, some people with more debt than assets would not normally be described as “poor,” the report said.
“These people may be in debt but be income-rich, thanks to well-functioning credit markets (think of the indebted Harvard graduate),” the report explained. “A number of such cases will exist.”
“However, in terms of population, this group is insignificant at the aggregate global level,” the report said. “Across the world, the vast majority of people living in debt really are very poor.”
The report also said that, based on the rate at which the richest are accumulating wealth, the world may see its first trillionaire in just 25 years.
“To put this figure in perspective — you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2,738 years to spend $1 trillion,” the report said.
Last year, Oxfam estimated that 62 people owned as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. But the organization said that “new and better data on the distribution of global wealth — particularly in India and China indicates that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought.”
“Had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet, and not 62, as Oxfam calculated at the time.”