Inequality gap widens as ‘world’s richest 1% get 82% of the wealth,’ Oxfam says

  • Approximately 82 percent of the money generated last year went to the richest 1 percent of the global population, the report said, while the poorest half saw no increase at all
  • Last year, Oxfam said billionaires would have seen an uptick of $762 billion — enough to end extreme poverty seven times over
  • The report is timely as the global political and business elite gather in snow-clad Davos for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting this week

Just 42 people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 percent worldwide, a new study by global charity Oxfam claimed.

In a report published Monday, Oxfam called for action to tackle the growing gap between the super-rich and the rest of the world. Approximately 82 percent of the money generated last year went to the richest 1 percent of the global population, the report said, while the poorest half saw no increase at all.

The report is timely as the global political and business elite gathers in snow-clad Davos for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting this week, which aims to promote responsive and responsible leadership.

'Increasingly concentrated'

Oxfam said its figures, which some observers have criticized, showed economic rewards were "increasingly concentrated" at the top. The charity cited tax evasion, the erosion of worker's rights, cost-cutting and businesses' influence on policy decisions as reasons for the widening inequality gap.

The charity also found the wealth of billionaires had increased by 13 percent a year on average in the decade from 2006 to 2015. Last year, billionaires would have seen an uptick of $762 billion — enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. It also claimed nine out of 10 of the world's 2,043 billionaires were men.

Jeff Bezos
David Ryder | Getty Images
Jeff Bezos

Booming global stock markets were seen as the main driver for a surge in wealth among those holding financial assets last year. The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, saw his wealth balloon by $6 billion in the first 10 days of 2017 — leading to a flood of headlines marking him as "the richest man of all time."

'Something is very wrong'

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said the statistics signal "something is very wrong with the global economy."

"The concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hard-working people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food," he added.

Oxfam has published similar reports over the past five years. At the start of 2017, Oxfam said eight billionaires from around the globe had as much money as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world's population. Improved data has seen last year's figure revised to 61, but the charity said the trend of widening inequality was still evident.

The report, "Reward Work, Not Health," is based on data from Forbes and the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth datebook, which has detailed the distribution of global wealth since 2000.

The survey assesses a person's wealth based on the value of an individual's assets — mainly property and land — minus any debts they may hold. The data excludes wages and income to determine what he or she is perceived to own. This methodology has attracted criticism in the past, as a student with high debt levels and a high future earning potential would classify as poor under the current criteria.

Nonetheless, Oxfam said even if the wealth of the poorest half of the population was recalculated to remove the people in net debt, their combined wealth would still be equal to 128 billionaires.

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