Inequality in terms of income has reached an epic proportion in India with the country’s one per cent rich now owning nearly 58 per cent of its wealth.
A study released by rights group Oxfam showed that just 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth ($216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of the country.
The study said there are 84 billionaires in India, with a collective wealth of $248 billion. Indian billionaires are led by Mukesh Ambani ($19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi ($16.7 billion), Azim Premji ($15 billion), Shiv Nadar ($11.1 billion) and Cyrus Poonawalla ($8.5 billion).
The Oxfam study used Forbes’ billionaires list last published in March 2016 to make its claim.
At the global level, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population.
Out of total global wealth of $255.7 trillion, about $6.5 trillion was held by billionaires, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($75 billion), Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of fashion house Inditex ($67 billion) and financier Warren Buffett ($60.8 billion). Others in the list follow are Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
Oxfam said it is time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few.
The study further warns that people will no longer accept mounting inequality and it will lead to more seismic political changes.
The study further notes that governments across the world have failed to contain the growing inequality. It has given thrust to populism and nationalistic appeals across the Europe. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America give validity to this argument.
As per the findings, the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought while over the last two decades, the richest 10 per cent of the population in China, Indonesia, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15 per cent.
Referring to the Global Wage Report 2016-17 of Indian Labour Organisation, the study said India suffers from huge gender pay gap and has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30 per cent.
The international agency called upon the governments to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:
* Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
* Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
* Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
* Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
* Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
* Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
* Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.