Rising social inequalities undermine democratic processes in industrial-, newly industrializing and development countries. This is the outcome of a report on income and wealth distribution published by Oxfam in the light of the 44th World Economic Forum in Davos. In “Working for the Few” the development organization warns, that left unchecked, political institutions become undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.
Today almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by just one percent of the population. The 85 richest people own as much as the poorer half of the world’s population.
Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who attended the Davos meetings, said that the fight against poverty cannot be won until wealth inequality has been tackled. “Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima stated. In rich and poor countries alike, the lowest tax rates, the best health care and education would increasingly be claimed by the children of the rich. Accordingly, this creates dynamic and mutually reinforcing cycles of advantage that are transmitted across generations.