New Delhi: India’s richest 1% hold more than four times the wealth held by 953 million people who make up for the bottom 70% of the country’s population, while the total wealth of all Indian billionaires is more than the full-year budget, a new study said on Monday.
Releasing the study ‘Time to Care’ here ahead of the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), rights group Oxfam also said the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the planet’s population.
The report flagged that global inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast, and the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade, despite their combined wealth having declined in the last year.
“The gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these,” said Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar, who is here to represent the Oxfam confederation this year.
Oxfam brings out data on inequality annually. This years report is focused on just how important care work is going to be for the future of the global inequality, and why government’s need to invest in it on a priority basis.
“The pressure on carers, both unpaid and paid, is set to grow in the coming decade as the global population grows and age. An estimated 2.3 billion people will be in need of care by 2030 —an increase of 200 million since 2015. Climate change could worsen the looming global care crisis —by 2025, up to 2.4 billion people will live in areas without enough water, and women and girls will have to walk even longer distances to fetch it,” Oxfam has said.
The issues of income and gender inequality are expected to figure prominently in discussions at the five-day summit of the WEF, starting Monday. The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report has also warned that the downward pressure on the global economy from macroeconomic fragilities and financial inequality continued to intensify in 2019.
Concern about inequality underlies recent social unrest in almost every continent, although it may be sparked by different tipping points such as corruption, constitutional breaches, or the rise in prices for basic goods and services, as per the WEF report.
Although global inequality has declined over the past three decades, domestic income inequality has risen in many countries, particularly in advanced economies and reached historic highs in some, the Global Risks Report flagged last week.
The Oxfam report further said “sexist” economies are fuelling the inequality crisis by enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly poor women and girls.
Regarding India, Oxfam said the combined total wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19 which was at Rs 24,42,200 crore.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist,” Behar said.
As per the report, it would take a female domestic worker 22,277 years to earn what a top CEO of a technology company makes in one year.
With earnings pegged at Rs 106 per second, a tech CEO would make more in 10 minutes than what a domestic worker would make in one year.
It further said women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day — a contribution to the Indian economy of at least Rs 19 lakh crore a year, which is 20 times the entire education budget of India in 2019 (Rs 93,000 crore).
Besides, direct public investments in the care economy of 2% of GDP would potentially create 11 million new jobs and make up for the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, the report said.
Behar said the gap between rich and poor cannot be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these.
He said women and girls are among those who benefit the least from today’s economic system.
“They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving.
“It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy, Behar added.
Oxfam said governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle poverty and inequality.
Besides, the governments are also underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload, the report said.
As per the global survey, the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
Besides, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day – a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
Getting the richest 1% to pay just 0.5% extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.
Governments must prioritise care as being as important as all other sectors in order to build more human economies that work for everyone, not just a fortunate few, Behar said.
Oxfam said its calculations are based on the latest data sources available, including from the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Databook 2019 and Forbes’ 2019 Billionaires List.
(With PTI inputs)