Nine richest Indians now own wealth equivalent to bottom 50%: Ofam report
21 January 2019
Nine richest Indians now own wealth equivalent to bottom 50 per cent of the country, according to a new study that reveals growing wealth inequality in India. While the top 1 per cent own 51.53 per cent of national wealth, the bottom 60 per cent own merely 4.8 per cent, the study finds.
“Rising wealth inequality threatens the social fabric of the nation,” says the Oxfam Inequality Report 2019, released on Monday.
The report details of wealth being further concentrated in the hands of the richest while the poor are pushed deeper into deprivation.
This is a common trend across the world – in the last year alone, the wealth of the poorest half of humanity, 3.8 billion people, fell by 11 per cent, while a new billionaire was created every two days between 2017 and 2018 across the globe.
In India, the wealth of the top 1 per cent increased by 39 per cent, whereas that of the bottom 50 per cent increased by a mere 3 per cent in 2018.
India also added 18 new billionaires to the list just last year, taking the total number of billionaires in the country to 119. Their total wealth is higher than the Union budget of India for 2018-2019 (Rs 24,422 billion), the report says.
The report says that in 2018, 26 wealthiest people owned the same as that of the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 43 people the year before.
The report also focuses on women’s work, discussing how they remain the poorest of the poor. In a section dedicated to the same is titled “inequality is sexist”, the report cites a report from UN Women, which says that globally women earn 23 per cent less than men while men own 50 per cent more of the total wealth than women. In India, women are still receiving 34 per cent less wages than their male counterparts for the same work.
On the unrecognised and unpaid care work, it says, “If all the unpaid care work done by women across the globe was carried out by a single company, it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple.”
The report claims that top rates of tax on the wealthiest and corporations are at their lowest in decades, and that “unprecedented levels of tax avoidance and evasion” ensure that the wealthiest continue to pay less taxes.
“There can be no moral justification for this behaviour beyond the discredited neoliberal dogma that if everyone maximizes their selfishness, the world will somehow be a better place,” it adds.
The report also points to tax evasion, saying that the “super-rich are hiding $7.6 trillion from the tax authorities”. It also alleges that corporates “hide” money offshore to evade taxes. “Together this deprives developing countries of $170bn a year,” it says.
The country’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and states for public health, sanitation and water supply is less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani.