Billionaires, who now number a record 2,208, have more wealth than ever before, according to an Oxfam International report published Monday. Since the global financial crisis a decade ago, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.
The combined fortunes of the world’s 26 richest individuals reached $1.4 trillion last year — the same amount as the total wealth of the 3.8 billion poorest people.
Oxfam recommends that nations tax wealth at fairer levels, raise rates on personal income and corporate taxes and eliminate tax avoidance by companies and the super-rich. It also advocates providing universal free health care, education and other public services — and ensuring that women and girls also benefit. And it suggests investing in public services — including water, electricity and childcare — to free up women’s time and limit the number of unpaid hours they work.
Tax systems questioned
The report echoes policy positions embraced by the newly empowered Democrats in the United States, who are advocating for similar reforms.
“There is going to be a broader and increasingly energized public conversation in the US and globally on what a fair and effective tax system looks like that will be very different from today,” said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president of policy and advocacy.
Those issues are global.
“In many countries, a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford,” Oxfam said. “Every day, 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare.”
The impact is disproportionately felt by women.
“Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail,” the organization said, estimating that “if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company, it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion.”
Jethro Mullen and Rishi Iyengar contributed to this report.