World’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, says Oxfam

(Ottawa) – Global inequality is out of control with the world’s richest one per cent having more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, and much of that wealth is built on the backs of women working billions of hours every day doing unpaid or underpaid care work, according to a new Oxfam report.

‘Time to Care’ is being released as political and business elites gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. Oxfam’s report reveals that the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis and the 22 richest men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa. The report highlights how our sexist economies enable a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of women and girls, who together put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day – cooking, cleaning and caring for children and elderly. This represents a contribution of $10.8 trillion a year – more than three times the size of the global tech industry – without which our economies and societies simply wouldn’t be able to function.

In Canada, the top one per cent own significantly more wealth than the bottom 70 per cent. As everywhere else in the world, women in Canada carry a larger responsibility for care work, doing twice as much unpaid care work than men do.

”It’s incomprehensible that a wealthy few continue to amass large fortunes, while the majority of the world struggles to make ends meet. Women are stuck in poverty being robbed of precious time doing unpaid care work when they could be pursuing education and employment opportunities. Sexism lies at the heart of our economies and we cannot tackle inequality without addressing gender inequality,” said Lauren Ravon, director of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada.

Globally, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload. Across the globe, 42 per cent of women cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six per cent of men. Women also make up two-thirds of the paid ‘care workforce’. Jobs such as nursery and domestic workers, and care assistants are often poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll.

The pressure on carers, both unpaid and paid, is set to grow in the coming decade as the global population grows and ages. 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.

”The world is facing a looming care crisis as our societies are aging. The care economy could provide millions of decent jobs for women. Investing in the care economy is the best decision governments can make to ensure a more inclusive, equal and prosperous world,” said Ravon.

Oxfam estimates that by getting the richest one per cent to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth 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.

  • Free up women’s time by investing in public services to reduce and redistribute the millions of unpaid hours they spend every day caring for their families and homes.
  • Ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure.
  • Pass laws to tackle the huge amount of care work done by women and girls, and ensure people who do some of the most important jobs in our society — caring for our parents, our children and the most vulnerable — are paid a living wage.
  • Prioritize 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.
  • Increase spending on public services, including childcare, health and education.
  • Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax and crack down on tax avoidance.

“There is much our governments can do to tackle inequality, not just between the rich and poor, but also between men and women. 2020 is the year of gender equality as governments are stepping up to meet their global commitments and we want to see the Canadian government take a leadership role when it comes to tackling unpaid care work,” said Ravon.


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 Notes to editors:

  • ‘Time to Care’ summary, full report and methodology documents explaining how Oxfam calculated the figures and the data set is available here.
  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available. Figures on the share of wealth come from the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Databook 2019. Figures on the very richest in society come from Forbes’ 2019 Billionaires List. Billionaire wealth fell in the last year but has since recovered.
  • Oxfam is part of the Fight Inequality Alliance, a growing global coalition of civil society organizations and activists that will be holding events from 18-25 January in 30 countries, including India, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Uganda and the UK, to promote solutions to inequality and demand that economies work for everyone.


For more information:

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

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