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Oxfam survey reveals widening gap between rich and poor across world

By Kalyeena Makortoff

Growing inequality resulted in 82% of new global wealth going to the richest 1% last year, while the poorest half of the world saw their prosperity flatline, a report has claimed.

It means that of the $9.2trillion (£7.3tn) increase in global wealth between July 2016 and June 2017, around $7.6tn (£6tn) went to 75 million people, while the bottom 3.7 billion saw no increase.

It helped spark the sharpest increase in the number of billionaires ever recorded, to 2,043, with one created every two days, according to Oxfam's report.

The wealth of those billionaires increased by $762bn (£550bn) over 12 months, it said.

The report was published ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

To coincide with the summit, campaigners in Belfast city centre set up a mini restaurant - with unequal servings - to show the gap between rich and poor.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland's Chief Executive, said: "Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one per cent to enjoy the lion's share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity miss out.

"In the 12 months to March 2017, billionaires' fortunes grew by a staggering £585bn [$762bn] - enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over."

Women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-secure forms of work, the report said.

It claimed that, at current rates of change, it will take 217 years to close the global gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.

Mr Clarken added: "The world has made huge strides forward in ending poverty, but progress could be even faster if we did more to break down the barriers that are holding back the world's poorest people.

"For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against.

"If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we - and they - should be willing to pay.

"Leaders should ensure that wealthy individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance, and invest this into essential services like schools and hospitals, and creating jobs for young people."

But Mark Littlewood, director general of free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, accused Oxfam of peddling a "gross misrepresentation of world poverty" which he said "fails to line up with everything else we know about human advancement and income improvements".

"Demonising capitalism may be fashionable in the affluent Western world, but it ignores the millions of people who have risen out of poverty as a result of free markets," he said.

Mr Littlewood said poverty would be eradicated by implementing the "right institutional framework" to advance economic growth and said raising minimum wages and levying higher taxes on the rich was not the answer and would only lead to disappearing jobs and "reduce wealth" without distributing it.

He said statistics around the net wealth of the richest 1% were down to demographics.

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