The gap between rich and poor has increased in almost every region of the world over the last four decades, according to a report published Thursday.
A global perception that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor has triggered calls for a crackdown on offshore tax havens and moved the issue of inequality up the political agenda.
Authors of the World Inequality Report said that unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance then the problem would continue to deteriorate.
Overseen by French economist Thomas Piketty, the report drew on the work of more than 100 researchers in over 70 different countries. It found that since 1980, the top 0.1 percent of wealth owners, about 7 million people, captured as much of the world's growth as the bottom half of the adult population, around 3.8 billion people.
"Conversely, income growth has been sluggish or even nil for the population between the global bottom 50 percent and top 1 percent," the report said.