Billionaires’ fortunes grew by $3.3 billion a day last year as poorest half of humanity saw their wealth fall, says Oxfam

January 21, 2019
Background media: a woman and man pouring champagne contrasting with an image of a women fetching water from a river. Fight inequality, beat poverty.

(Ottawa) The fortunes of the world’s billionaires grew by 12 per cent – or $3.3 billion a day – last year, while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth fall, according to a new Oxfam report.

Public Good or Private Wealth’ is being released as four members of Trudeau’s cabinet join political and business elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. The report reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, like healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging, on the other. It also finds that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, and are left to fill the gaps in public services with many hours of unpaid care work. An estimated 16.4 billion hours of unpaid care work a year, to be precise.

In Canada, billionaire wealth grew by almost $20 billion between March 2017 and March 2018. Oxfam estimates that would have been enough to make universal child care affordable and accessible to all Canadian families.

“The extreme and increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few wealthy men should concern us all. We are faced with a broken economic system that rewards wealth, not work, and that is particularly hurting women, whose work is underpaid and undervalued,” said Lauren Ravon, director of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada

“While it is easy to feel discouraged in the face of such growing inequality, we know this trend can be reversed. That is why Oxfam is challenging politicians to massively invest in public services – such as education, health and childcare – which have unparalleled power to reduce poverty and inequality, and advance gender justice.”

Oxfam’s report also reveals that the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis, while wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades.

At the same time, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people. Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 per cent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 per cent of corporations. When public services are cut and underfunded, women are left to pick up the slack – and this burden falls most heavily on poor women, particularly during their reproductive years.

Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have annual sales of $13.2 trillion – 43 times that of Apple.

“Canada can take a major step in addressing the inequality crisis by investing in universal childcare. We know this would have a triple benefit: it would help lift families out of poverty, advance gender equality, and boost labor force participation which in turn stimulates growth. Now is the time for Canada to make this commitment,” said Ravon.

Oxfam is calling for governments to ensure our economies work for everyone and not just the fortunate few, asking governments to:

  • Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a ‘living’ wage that would enable them a decent quality of life.
  • Free up women’s time by easing the millions of unpaid hours they spend every day caring for their families and homes.
  • Increase spending on public services, including childcare, health and education
  • Ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax and crack down on tax avoidance.

“People across the globe are angry and frustrated. Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in free healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone – including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.


Notes to editors
  • Public Good or Private Wealth’ report and methodology document explaining how Oxfam calculated the figures, and the data set is available here.
  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up to date, comprehensive data sources available. Figures on the share of wealth owned by the poorest half of humanity come from Credit Suisse Wealth Databook and relate to the period June 2017 – June 2018. Figures on the very richest in society are based on more detailed data from the Annual Forbes ‘Billionaires List’ and relates to the period March 2017 – March 2018.
  • Oxfam is proud to be part of the Fight Inequality Alliance – a coalition of social movements, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. The Alliance is organizing events in over 30 countries from 18-25 January, around the same time as the WEF in Davos, but will be calling on their leaders to listen to ordinary people’s demands and solutions to dealing with inequality – and not to the elites at Davos. For more information please visit
Contact Information:

Paula Baker
Media Relations
Oxfam Canada
(613) 240-3047

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