Shocking story that generally fails to shock…

Sad but true. It was at the bottom of page 2 in today’s print Sydney Morning Herald – left-hand pages tend to be less prominent. Online you really had to know what you were looking for; I ended up using “search” to find the journalist (Esther Han) who wrote it. It doesn’t seem to be in the (Sydney) Daily Telegraph. Nor has it appeared on ABC in the past week.

Perhaps it isn’t strictly news, but I was shocked by Sixty-two people have the same amount of wealth as half the world, says Oxfam.

As the business elite converge on Davos for the World Economic Forum, an Oxfam report shows wealth is becoming further concentrated, with the number of people owning the same amount as the bottom half of humanity falling from 388 to 62 in five years.

It says a “broken” economic model underpinned by deregulation, privatisation and financial secrecy has seen the wealth of the richest 62 people jump by 44 per cent in five years to $1.76 trillion…

So since I moved back to Wollongong (no causal link intended!) this has been the change:


Who are they? See Forbes: The World’s Billionaires.

What is Oxfam’s line? See The inequality stat that’s shocked the world.

Extreme inequality is one of the defining issues of our time.

And it is getting worse. Today, just 62 individuals have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. That’s just 62 mega-rich individuals compared to 3.5 billion people.

It’s a huge injustice.

Perhaps even more astonishing, the richest 1% have accumulated more wealth than the rest of the planet combined — and it has happened one year earlier than predicted.

Oxfam’s newest report, An Economy for the 1% [pdf], finds that, far from trickling down, income and wealth is being sucked upwards at an alarming rate, out of the reach of ordinary people. Australia hasn’t escaped this trend. Here, the richest 10% of people own more wealth than all other Australians combined, and our richest individual has the same amount of wealth as the poorest 10% of Australians. 

Not only that, if you look at the increase in wealth in Australia over the past 15 years, over half of the increase has been captured by the richest 1%, while the poorest 10% of Australians got such a small share of the overall increase that it rounds down to 0%.

The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes and is bad for us all. Yet the consequences for the world’s poorest people are particularly severe. Rising economic inequality makes existing inequalities worse. Countries with higher income inequality tend to have larger gaps between women and men in terms of health, education, labour market participation, and representation in parliaments…

If everyone paid their fair share of tax, we could have a chance to meet the basic needs of people living in poverty, give them control over their own lives and the opportunity to change their futures.

Inequality is not inevitable. Our world is not short of wealth. It simply makes no sense, morally or economically, to have so much in the hands of so few. The fight against poverty will not be won until the inequality crisis is tackled.