There's a huge gender component to income inequality that we're ignoring

  • Most of the world’s extremely poor people are women and that most uber-wealthy individuals are men, a new Oxfam report says.
  • About 82% of all wealth generated in the past year went to the top 1%.
  • The richest 1% hold more wealth than the whole of the rest of humanity.
  • “Women provide $US10 trillion in unpaid care annually to support the global economy,” the report says.

Oxfam’s report on global inequality, released Monday, contains a barrage of startling, depressing statistics, including:

  • 82% of all wealth generated in the past year went to the top 1%.
  • The bottom 50% saw no benefits from growth.
  • The world’s billionaires saw their fortunes swell by $US762 billion in just a year.
  • The richest 1% hold more wealth than the rest of humanity.

Yet perhaps the most crucial fact highlighted in the report is this: “Women provide $US10 trillion in unpaid care annually to support the global economy.”

Women’s marches took over US cities over the weekend and were echoed overseas. But the Oxfam report shows just how far there is to go.

“Women are the big losers in the global economy, often trapped in the worst jobs, frequently because they are providing vital unpaid care to their families and communities,” the report says. “The highest earners and wealthiest people – often the same people – are predominantly men.”

The two charts below depict with rather extreme clarity just how skewed the economy has become in favour of the rich. The first shows the gains in the number and total wealth of billionaires since the turn of the century.

Billionaires OxfamOxfam

This second graphic shows just how large a chunk of the benefits of economic growth and wealth creation has been accumulating at the very top of the income scale.

Rich share of wealthOxfam

One especially troubling aspect of rising inequality, Oxfam says, is that it appears related to hereditary and monopolistic forms of wealth, not productivity gains.

“There is mounting evidence that the current levels of inequality are not the result of effort and risk-taking, but rather windfall income that does not reflect productive activities, which economists call ‘rent,'” the report says.

“Three phenomena are important in this respect: 1. Monopolies. 2. Cronyism. 3. Inheritance. There is also evidence that social mobility – i.e., the ability of those who are born poor to die rich – can be affected negatively by inequality.”

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