India’s richest 1% hold more than four times the wealth held by the bottom 70% of the country’s population, according to a study released by Oxfam on Monday. The document, released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum, said the combined wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget for the fiscal year 2018-’19, which was at Rs 24,42,200 crore.
Globally, the 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the world population. As per the global survey, the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa. The number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade, although their combined wealth has 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.
The Oxfam report further said “sexist economies” were fuelling the inequality crisis by enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people, particularly poor women and girls. According to the report, it would take a female domestic worker 22,277 years to earn what a top executive of a technology company makes in one year. “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.
Behar said women and girls are among those who benefit the least from today’s economic system. 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. Direct public investments in the care economy of 2% of GDP would create 11 million jobs and make up for the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, the report said. “They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly,” said Behar. “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.”
According to the report, the wealthiest individuals and corporations are under-taxed and the governments are failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle poverty and inequality. If the richest are taxed just 0.5% extra tax over the next 10 years, it would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health. Oxfam also blamed the governments for underfunding pivotal public services and infrastructure that could help reduce the workload of women and girls. “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 added.