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Report: Eight Men Control as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population


A recent study from Oxfam International says eight men control more wealth than half the world's population. The group says inequality is growing, causes hardship for the world's poor and could cause political problems.

A new report from a British anti-poverty organization says eight men own as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world.

The eight men include Microsoft’s Bill Gates and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Oxfam International released the report on Monday. Oxfam is a group of international organizations that seek to fight poverty around the world.

The group warned that public anger over inequality might cause more political changes. Examples of such changes, Oxfam said, include the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and Britain’s vote to withdraw from the E.U.

Maria Susana Silveira, 55, and Jorge Fernandez, 46, who live in the street as a team, rest outside Banco Nacion with their dog Toto, across the street from La Casa Rosada presidential house in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Maria Susana Silveira, 55, and Jorge Fernandez, 46, who live in the street as a team, rest outside Banco Nacion with their dog Toto, across the street from La Casa Rosada presidential house in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The report appears as international political and business leaders meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This yearly event gathers leaders, experts and activists to discuss important international issues.

Oxfam released a similar report last year. That report suggested 62 people owned as much wealth as half the world’s population. The activist group says new information from Swiss bank Credit Suisse and Forbes magazine shows that fewer people hold more of the wealth.

Forbes lists Bill Gates as the wealthiest individual. The magazine says he is worth about $75 billion.

Businessman Bill Gates, center, was named by Forbes magazine the world's richest man.
Businessman Bill Gates, center, was named by Forbes magazine the world's richest man.

Following Gates on the list are Amancio Ortega of the Spanish ​clothing company Inditex and American businessman Warren Buffett. Also among the eight are Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu and Amazon head Jeff Bezos. They are followed by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and former New York City mayor and media businessman Michael Bloomberg.

Winnie Byanyima is the executive director of Oxfam International. She will be attending the World Economic Forum meetings in Switzerland. She hopes to discuss the problems inequality causes with world leaders.

“It is obscene for so much wealth to be in the hands of so few people when 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 a day,” Byanyima told the Associated Press. “Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”

Oxfam offered possible solutions to economic inequality in its report. These include higher taxes on wealth and income to pay for more public services. The group also calls on business leaders to pay their share of taxes.

In addition, Oxfam calls for stronger agreements between governments on fair pay for workers.

Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf rally against Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Sharif has denied claims from the "Panama Papers" of taking out any money from the country to purchase property in London or creating a business in Saud
Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf rally against Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Sharif has denied claims from the "Panama Papers" of taking out any money from the country to purchase property in London or creating a business in Saud

Max Lawson is the head of policy for Oxfam. He urged extremely rich people to, in his words, “do the right thing.”

“We have a situation where billionaires are paying less tax often than their cleaner, or their secretary” Lawson told the Associated Press. “That’s crazy.”

Last year, the release of financial documents known as the “Panama Papers” showed how some wealthy people avoid paying taxes. The leaked documents were a collection of information about secret bank accounts some wealthy people used to hide their wealth.

On Monday, another report warned that income inequality has led to a decrease in trust in governments and other institutions.

Edelman is one of the world’s biggest marketing companies. The company studied the opinions of 33,000 people from 28 different international markets before the start of this years’ World Economic Forum.

Edelman said its study found the largest drop of trust in government, business, media and non-governmental organizations yet. The company has reported on its trust and credibility survey for 16 years.

Trust of chief executive officers of companies is at an all-time low, according to Edelman. The report added that government leaders are the least trusted group.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Pan Pylas reported this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English using additional Reuters news service material. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. How different are the lives of a wealthy person and a poor person in your country? What percentage of people own most of the wealth in your country? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

inequalityn. an unfair situation in which some people have more rights or better chances than other people

obsceneadj. morally disturbing or upsetting

fracturingv. damaging or destroying something

underminingv. making someone or something weaker or less effective usually in a secret or gradual way

billionaire(s) – n. a rich person who has at least a billion dollars or pounds

institution(s) – n. an established organization

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