Global wealth inequality continues to rise as we head into the new decade. According to Oxfam’s 2020 Inequality report – which was released prior to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic – the richest 1% of the world’s population have twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion other people.
The disparities are only expected to increase as the world descends into economic crisis.
There were 2,153 billionaires in 2019. Collectively they hold as much wealth as the poorest 4.6 billion people in the world. Clearly the exploitation of the poor by the rich is getting worse.
In Australia the richest 1%, around 250,000 people, have more than a fifth of the wealth. That adds up to almost $2.4 trillion and makes them twice as wealthy as the bottom half of the population.
Over the last decade, while wages stagnated and social services were slashed, the number of billionaires in Australia tripled.
Unpaid taxes from big corporations in 2016-2017 were about $2 billion according to the Australian Taxation Office. Coincidentally that is how much the federal government pledged for the National Bushfire Recovery Fund in January.
This is just one indication of the existing vast wealth which could be tapped to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, rebuild communities, fund the upgraded services, and halt climate change.
Oxfam’s report also pointed to the special double oppression women face under capitalism. Total economic value of women’s unpaid care and domestic work is at least $10.8 trillion per year, which is three times larger than the value of the global tech industry.
Capitalism is a perverse type of system that produces and maintains screaming injustice and staggering inequality. We need a radical overhaul of society to establish a new system where we collectively own society’s productive forces.
Then we can decide democratically how to produce wealth and how to share it out. That way wealth inequality, oppression, exploitation and fat cat tax dodging can all be brought to an end.
By Kirk Leonard