FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Billionaire Boom: 82% of Global Wealth Produced Last Year Went to Richest 1%

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Forida is a 22-year-old sewing machine operator in a clothing factory in Dahka, Bangladesh. She often works 12-hour days producing clothes for brands such as H&M and Target. Sometimes, during busy production cycles, the hours are even longer.

“Last year, I worked until midnight for a full month,” Forida explained. “I used to feel sick all the time. I was stressed about my son and then after I got home from work, I had to clean the house and cook and then go back to work again the next morning. I would go to bed at 2am and get up at 5.30am each day.”

Even with the combined income from her husband, Forida’s family barely had enough food to eat.

Meanwhile, a CEO from a top clothing brand would have to work only four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh earns in a lifetime.

Forida’s story is included in a report released today by the anti-poverty organization Oxfam. The report, Reward Work, Not Wealth, reveals how the global economy empowers the richest 1% while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive.

Oxfam found that 82% of the global wealth produced last year went to the richest 1% of the world’s population. In other words, four out of every five dollars of wealth created in 2017 went into the pockets of the 1%.

While a new billionaire was created every other day, the 3.7 billion people making up the poorest half of the world’s population saw no increase in their wealth last year.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of Oxfam. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

Oxfam reported that the 42 richest people now own as much wealth the poorest half of the world’s population.

Since 2010, billionaire wealth has risen annually by 13%, a rate six time higher than that of average workers.

Key factors contributing to this concentration of wealth, Oxfam found, are erosion of workers’ rights, corporate influence in political and labor policy-making, rewarding inherited wealth, tax evasion, and cutting costs to maximize profits for company owners.

“A perfect storm is driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom,” Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, explained. “If such inequality remains unaddressed, it will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society.”

Oxfam pointed to President Trump’s policies as widening the gap between rich and poor, and empowering the 1% on the backs of the American working class.

Since taking office, Trump has chosen a cabinet with more billionaires in it than ever before in US history, and whose combined wealth is greater than the 100 million poorest Americans. Oxfam cited Trump’s proposed tax and healthcare reforms as policies favoring the super-rich.

Meanwhile, the three richest Americans own the same wealth as the poorest half of the country’s population.

Such data underlines the plight of the American poor. Oxfam’s report included a portrait of Dolores, a former poultry worker in Arkansas. She and her co-workers were provided so few bathroom breaks at the factory that they were forced to wear diapers to work.

“It was like having no worth,” Dolores said. “We would arrive at 5 in the morning… until 11 or 12 without using the bathroom… I was ashamed to tell them that I had to change my Pampers.”

Work in the US poultry industry has one of the highest rates of injury in the country. Oxfam found that “repetitive strain injuries can be so severe that after only one year on the production lines, some workers reported being unable to straighten their fingers, hold a spoon or even properly hold their children’s hands.”

Across the world, poor people’s labor fuels the rising concentration of wealth.

“Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few,” Oxfam explained. “Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich are men. Governments must create a more equal society by prioritizing ordinary workers and small-scale food producers instead of the rich and powerful.”

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl has a PhD in history from McGill University and is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail