Rich Australians continue to get richer, with the top 1 percent of Aussies now owning more than the bottom 70 percent combined. The growing disparity between the world's rich and poor has been highlighted in the latest Oxfam report on global inequality, which is released each year during the World Economic Forum. As community leaders gather to “define priorities and shape global, industry and regional agendas”, Oxfam continues to recommend increased public spending budgets and increased taxation for the rich to help close the gap.
Oxfam International is a confederation of non-profit organisations which fight against poverty in more than 90 nations worldwide. The report by Oxfam, entitled 'Public Good or Private Wealth', takes a detailed look at wealth disparity across the world. In 2018, global billionaire wealth increased by an average of $3.3 billion a day, representing a total increase of 12 percent from 2017. At the same time, the wealth held by the poorest half of the world’s population decreased by 11 percent. According to Lauren Ravon from Oxfam,“The scale of this is so obscene, it’s hard to wrap your head around it... It’s just these staggering figures.”
While Australia is often seen as a rich nation without a traditional class structure, the gap continues to wider between the rich and poor. According to Oxfam, the number of billionaires in Australia rose during the year from 33 to 43, with their combined wealth increasing to almost $160 billion during 2018. This astonishing number equates to an increase of $100 million a day, which is a total increase of $36 billion. Not only is this enough to cover half the Federal Government's health budget this financial year, it's happening at a time when wage growth is slowing and homelessness is on the rise across the country.
According to Helen Szoke, chief executive of Oxfam Australia, "The wealth of the bottom half of our community has not changed and ordinary workers' wage growth has remained stagnant... Australia is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet the pervasive gap between the haves and the have-nots persists. This inequality simply cannot, and does not need to, continue." The five richest individuals in Australia are Gina Rinehart at $17.4 billion, Harry Triguboff at $9.2 billion, Vivek Chaand Sehgal at $6 billion, Frank Lowy at $5.9 billion, and Anthony Pratt at $5.5 billion.
Along with a growing gap between the rich and poor, certain segments of the population continue to face increasing disadvantage. Australian women continued to earn 85 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2018, and 36 percent of Indigenous households had weekly incomes in the bottom 25 percent of income groups. In the 2016 Census, 80 percent of Indigenous adults had weekly incomes below the national average earnings of $1,160 per week, which according to Dr. Szoke, is a significant factor in the "yawning gap between health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia."
While inequality is a natural result of capitalism according to many, the dream of a trickle-down economy has failed to eventuate as wealthy individuals and corporations fail to meet their tax obligations. According to Oxfam, only 4 cents in every dollar of tax revenue comes from the wealthy, with "The super-rich hiding $7.6 trillion from tax authorities" in safe havens around the world. The growing disparity between the haves and have-nots also exists across borders, with a child from a poor family in a developing country twice as likely to die before the age of five than a child from a wealthy family.