Billionaires' wealth increased by 12% worldwide last year, while the poorer half of the world's population lost 11%. This is the conclusion of the latest Oxfam report.
Women are particularly hard hit by poverty. On a global average, men own 50% more wealth than women. In addition, women receive on average a quarter lower salary than men. This gender-specific inequality in wealth and income is particularly evident in the Horyzon project countries. The authors of the study found that in Bangladesh, for example, women own only between 20-30% of assets. In addition, men own six times more land than women.
Women in particular do care work
Women are also massively disadvantaged in Colombia, another Horyzon project country. Studies by Oxfam have shown that women here work 14 hours a day and then have to take on nursing responsibilities due to sick relatives, for example. Furthermore, another study shows that poor women from rural areas do five times more care work than men. This unpaid work discriminates against women in many ways:
- Thus the many jobs and the stress damage their health.
- The nursing responsibility limits their possibilities to find paid work as well as to participate in political and social life.
- This in turn means that they cannot acquire work experience in order to reach management positions. In addition, exclusion from the political process leads to marginalisation within society.
- The education of girls who are taken out of school to help at home suffers. Meanwhile, the girls' brothers can continue their education.
But what can be done to reduce inequality, or at least to stop the gap between the two? The means to combat poverty would be public provision of education, health and social security. However, in many countries these services are severely underfunded or under political pressure. According to Oxfam, a stronger and more effective taxation of corporations and wealthy individuals would therefore be important.
Criticism of the Oxfam report
With the annual publication of the Oxfam report, the methodology of the report is repeatedly reproached. Critics of the report complain in particular that Oxfam's data are not properly collected and then simplified. According to Oxfam, however, this criticism does not apply. According to the data, a Central European university graduate who has a lucrative job but is indebted with a student loan could be counted as poor. But even if the poorest tenth of the population were excluded from the calculation in order to correct this distortion, the result would tend to remain the same.
The NGO also rejects the accusation that Oxfam is ignoring the fact that more and more people are emerging from poverty. Oxfam regularly stresses - as it does this year - that the extreme form of poverty is declining all over the world. However, the authors note that this trend is weakening and that many more people could be freed from poverty if they had benefited as much from economic success as the richest.