8 Billionaires Own As Much As 3.6 Billion People
January 18, 2017
If you want stark visual proof of global inequality, here it is. Both halves of this graph represent an equal amount of global wealth. The top half consists of the world’s eight richest billionaires. The bottom half represents the poorest half of humanity – that’s 3.6 billion people.
Such levels of global wealth inequality are “beyond grotesque”, says Oxfam, which released the findings. And that inequality continues to grow: in last year’s report, it took no less than 62 billionaires to equal the wealth of the world’s bottom half.
The eight richest persons in the world collectively own about $426 billion. That is an average of about $53.25 billion for each. For the bottom half of the graph, the average of their collective wealth works out to less than $120 per person.
You’re certain to know some of the guys in the most exclusive club in the world – the rich list rock stars. Others shun the limelight, preferring wealth without fame. Six are Americans, the other two hailing from Spain and Mexico:
1. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is the richest man in the world. He is worth $75 billion (8.80% of the eight wealthiest billionaires’ fortunes combined).
2. Armancio Ortega ($67 billion, 7.86%) is the richest man in Europe. He is the founder of the Zara clothing brand and chain.
3. Warren Buffett ($60.8 billion, 7.13%) is an investment guru, best known for his holding company Berkshire Hathaway.
4. Carlos Slim ($50 billion, 5.87%) made his money via America Movil, a major telecommunications multinational operating mainly in Latin America.
5. Jeff Bezos ($45.2 billion, 5.30%) founded Amazon, which expanded from a web-based book shop to the undisputed worldwide online retail giant.
6. Mark Zuckerberg ($44.6 billion, 5.23%) founded Facebook back in 2004 and grew it into the world’s favorite social media platform.
7. Larry Ellison ($43.6 billion, 5.11%) founded software giant Oracle.
8. Michael Bloomberg ($40 billion, 4.69%) founded Bloomberg LP, a financial and media giant, and was mayor of New York City.
The fact that this year it takes only 8 billionaires to equal the wealth of the world’s poorest half is due to two main factors. Firstly, it turns out that poverty in China and India is worse than previously thought, meaning the bottom half is even worse off.
But, crucially, the wealth accumulation into the hands of an ever smaller number of super-rich continues. Oxfam points to wage restraints for lower- and middle-class incomes, a focus on increasing returns for shareholders and executives, and tax evasion by the wealthy as factors contributing to the ongoing phenomenon.
Oxfam states that since 2015, the richest 1% of the world own more than the other 99%. released its figures ahead of the World Economic Forum (17-20 January in Davos, Switzerland). The WEF has acknowledged rising inequality as a major risk to the global economy, and a potential driver for a reversal of globalisation.
Countering Oxfam’s shocking report, some observers defend global capitalism by pointing out that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone.
These 8 Men Have as Much Money as Half the World
A new Oxfam report finds income inequality is benefiting a few billionaires who already have “biblical” fortunes.
These are the eight richest men in the world. They hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — 3.5 billion people. (Photo; Huffington Post/Getty Images)
Just eight super-rich men hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to an analysis from the charity Oxfam released Sunday night.
Six of these billionaires, from Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, are American entrepreneurs: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Rounding out the list are Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of a retail conglomerate that includes clothing chain Zara. Together their net wealth ― assets minus debts ― amounts to $426 billion.
We cannot name the bottom half of humanity, more than 3.6 billion people, with that kind of precision, but they mostly live in the developing world.
The Oxfam statistic is one of the starkest ways to portray the disturbing rise of economic inequality, which can be a hard concept to grasp when portrayed in percentages and billion-dollar denominations. The global anti-poverty group has been tracking inequality since 2014.
Worsening inequality threatens to upend the very fabric that’s held democracies together in the post-World War II global order. In the United States, the widening gulf between the rich and everyone else helped propel Donald Trump into office. Overseas, the trend is credited with sparking Brexit, the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union.
“Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart,” Oxfam writes in its report, citing Brexit, Trump’s campaign and “a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics.”
In 2016, the richest 1 percent of the world held slightly more than half of the wealth of the entire planet, Oxfam notes. And the 1,810 billionaires on Forbes’s list ― 89 percent male ― hold $6.5 trillion, as much wealth as 70 percent of humanity.
Put another way, billions of people are fighting over crumbs from half of a pie, while the rich dig into fat slices all to themselves.
For its analysis, Oxfam used Forbes’ ranking of global billionaires and wealth data from Credit Suisse. According to the wealth data, 80 percent of the bottom half of the world’s population are adults living in Africa and India. They’re younger and more likely to be single and poorly educated. Women who are poorly educated are even more likely to have very little wealth.
Growing inequality threatens to upend the very fabric that’s held democracies together in the post-World War II global order.
A very small sliver of the bottom half live in the United States, mainly because the wealth data looks at net wealth, subtracting the amount of debt a person has from assets. That means, for example, that young adults in the U.S. who have a big mortgage and maybe a car loan and a student loan will, on paper, seem poor.
Some economics writers, Felix Salmon of Fusion most prominently, have used this point to discount Oxfam’s report. It’s a fair criticism, Gawain Kripke, Oxfam’s director of policy and research, told The Huffington Post. But it’s a footnote, not a reason to dismiss the disturbing findings of the report, Kripke said.
If you ignore debt entirely, it would take 56 of the wealthiest individuals to equal the wealth of the bottom 50 percent, according to Oxfam’s report.
“The underlying trend is the same: At the very pinnacle of the economic pyramid, rich people are getting progressively and rapidly richer, while the rest of humanity is muddling along,” Kripke said. He called the wealth of the top eight individuals “biblical.”
Last year, when Oxfam did its report, it took 62 billionaires to equal the bottom half of the world. The change this year seems drastic because of improvements in the quality of the data Credit Suisse was able to get. If Oxfam had used that improved data last year, it would’ve taken just 9 billionaires to reach parity with the world’s bottom half, Kripke said.
Watch: The 10 Richest People in the World