Davos, January 14, 2024, The Europe Today: In a recent report released by anti-poverty group Oxfam, it has been revealed that the combined wealth of the world’s five richest individuals has surged to $869 billion since 2020, while five billion people have experienced increasing impoverishment.
The report, unveiled on the eve of the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, underscores the dominance of billionaires in major corporations.
The Oxfam study found that seven out of ten of the world’s largest companies are either run by billionaires or have them as their main shareholders. Advocating for measures to rein in corporate power, Oxfam called for the breakup of monopolies, the implementation of taxes on excess profit and wealth, and the exploration of alternatives to shareholder control, such as employee ownership.
The report estimates that 148 top corporations raked in $1.8 trillion in profits, a 52% increase over the three-year average. This surge in profits allowed substantial payouts to shareholders, while millions of workers faced a cost-of-living crisis due to wage cuts in real terms amid inflation.
Oxfam International’s interim Executive Director, Amitabh Behar, stated, “This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else.” The report challenges the concept of “stakeholder capitalism,” championed at Davos, suggesting that corporations are failing to fulfill “human and societal aspirations” within the broader social system.
Max Lawson, Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, emphasized, “Today’s extreme system of shareholder capitalism, which prioritizes increasing returns to rich shareholders, is driving inequality.” The report utilized data from sources including the International Labour Organization, World Bank, and Forbes annual rich list.
The wealth surge of the top five billionaires, adjusted for inflation, was propelled by significant gains in assets held by Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and Warren Buffett. Meanwhile, almost 800 million workers globally experienced wages failing to keep up with inflation over the past two years, resulting in an average equivalent of 25 days of lost annual income per worker.
Oxfam’s analysis also revealed that a mere 0.4% of the world’s 1,600 largest corporations have publicly committed to paying workers a living wage and supporting a living wage in their value chains.