British charity Oxfam has released a report ahead of the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos this week claiming that global economic inequality is “out of control.”
The “Time to Care” report says that the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population have more than twice the wealth of the rest of the 6.9 billion on earth. In 2019 the world’s 2,153 billionaires had more wealth than 4.6 billion people, 60% of world’s population.
“Today’s extreme wealth is also founded on sexism,” the report notes. “Our economic system was built by rich and powerful men, who continue to make the rules and reap the lion’s share of the benefit.” Oxfam puts the monetary value of unpaid care work, carried out by women aged 15 and over at some $10.8tn (£8.3tn) a year.
“This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system,” the report says. “At the bottom of the economy, women and girls, especially women and girls living in poverty and from marginalized groups, are putting in 12.5 billion hours every day of care work for free, and countless more for poverty wages.”
Worldwide, it says, men own 50% more wealth than women, and dominate in terms of political and economic power.
Climate change — a key discussion topic for the thousands of wealthy executives gathered in Davos this week — is already placing a bigger burden on women, Oxfam says.
Based on a report by Care, Denmark, Oxfam says by 2025 an estimated 2.4 billion people will be living in areas without enough water, meaning women and girls will be forced to walk further and further to find it.
Oxfam uses the Credit Suisse Global Wealth report as the basis for its calculations on global inequality, but admits that “collecting figures on wealth is very difficult due the poor quality of much of the data.”
The charity’s wealth and inequality report has been criticised in the past for exaggerating the scale of the issue and for its methodology which is based on net wealth calculations and excluded income.
Oxfam singled out some global leaders whose policies it says are causing the gap between the poor and the wealthy to widen. “Strongman leaders like President Trump in the US, and President Bolsonaro in Brazil, are exemplars of this trend,” Oxfam says. “They are offering policies like tax cuts for billionaires, obstructing measures to tackle climate emergency, or turbo-charging racism, sexism, and hatred of minorities.”
It called on governments to act now “to build a human economy that is feminist and values what truly matters to society rather than fuelling an endless pursuit of profit and wealth.”