June 26, 2017
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With Action Slow to Come, Global Wealth Inequality Remains 'Shockingly High'

'Political concerns about inequality are not being translated into the action,' says Oxfam

By Deirdre Fulton, CommonDreams.org


"This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies, and holding back the fight against poverty," says Max Lawson of Oxfam. (Photo: Credit Suisse Research Institute)

"This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies, and holding back the fight against poverty," says Max Lawson of Oxfam. (Photo: Credit Suisse Research Institute)

Global wealth inequality continues to rise, according to a new study from Credit Suisse, with the richest 10 percent now owning a full 89 percent of all global assets.

The annual assessment (.pdf) from the Zurich-based financial services company finds that while the world was trending toward greater equality until 2008, the financial crisis halted that trajectory. The report reads:

Our calculations indicate that the top 1 percent of global wealth-holders started the millennium owning 49.6 percent of all household wealth. This share declined slowly and steadily until it reached 45.4 percent in 2009. The downward trend then reversed and the share rose each year, passing the 2000 level in 2014. We estimate that the top percentile now own 50.8 percent of global household assets.

Similar patterns emerge when looking at the top five and 10 percent of global wealth-holders. The numbers of millionaires and "ultra high net worth individuals" have also risen sharply. Meanwhile, the report estimates that 3.5 billion individuals—73 percent of all adults in the world—have wealth below $10,000 USD, and about 1 billion people—the bottom 20 percent of adults—own no more than $248 USD.

"In recent years, there has been a growing sense that the economic recovery is shallow, and has not reached all layers of society," researchers said in the study. "Evidence from our global wealth database supports this view."

Max Lawson, Oxfam's head of inequality policy, said the report signals that "political concerns about inequality are not being translated into the action needed to give hope and opportunities to the millions who have been left behind."

Decrying economic inequality that "remains at shockingly high levels," Lawson said: "This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies, and holding back the fight against poverty."

Notably, the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union this summer—fueled in part by economic inequality in Britain—led to a $1.5 trillion loss in wealth for the country.