"Since 2020, the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes. During the same period, almost five billion people globally have become poorer. Hardship and hunger are a daily reality for many people worldwide. At current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in a decade," says the anti poverty organisation Oxfam International in the report published last 15th Jan in coincidence with the beginning of the 2024 edition of the business elites World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Using data from Forbes, the report’s authors calculated that the combined wealth of those five men — Tesla CEO Elon Musk; Bernard Arnault and his family, who own luxury goods group LVMH; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Oracle founder Larry Ellison; and investor Warren Buffett — increased from $453 billion in 2019 to $869 billion as of November 2023. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Oxfam's press release highlights that "A huge concentration of global corporate and monopoly power is exacerbating inequality economy-wide. Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest corporates have either a billionaire CEO or a billionaire as their principal shareholder. Through squeezing workers, dodging tax, privatizing the state and spurring climate breakdown, corporations are driving inequality and acting in the service of delivering ever-greater wealth to their rich owners."
Meanwhile, nearly 800 million workers saw their wages over the past two years fail to keep up with inflation, resulting on average in the equivalent of 25 days of lost annual income per worker, according to Oxfam's analysis.
The study found that of the world's 1,600 largest corporations, just 0.4% of them have publicly committed to paying workers a living wage and to supporting a living wage in their value chains. It estimated that 148 top corporations made $1.8 trillion in profits, 52 percent up on a 3-year average, allowing hefty pay-outs to shareholders even as millions of workers faced a cost of living crisis as inflation led to wage cuts in real terms.
Oxfam considers that "A more equal world is possible if governments effectively regulate and reimagine the private sector." At Davos, the organisation called for governments to rein in corporate power by breaking up monopolies; instituting taxes on excess profit and wealth; and promoting alternatives to shareholder control such as forms of employee ownership.
This is Oxfam's study executive summary: