In 2017, a new billionaire was created every other day, the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history. Meanwhile, the poorest half of the world’s population saw zero increase in their wealth.

This statistic comes from a new report by Oxfam, which gathered a massive amount of data on global wages and also surveyed over 70,000 people in 10 countries.

The report, called “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” partly attributes the billionaire boost to the fact that 82 percent of the growth in global wealth in 2017 went straight to the top one percent.

“As the report points out, in many countries wage inequality has increased and the share of labour compensation in GDP has declined because profits have increased more rapidly than wages,” says Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization.

The number of billionaires by year.
The number of billionaires by year.

The report comes as the World Economic Forum annual meeting is poised to begin on Tuesday. President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to help lower-class workers, will be meeting with world leaders and business elites in Davos, Switzerland. Contrary to campaign rhetoric, the recent tax law put forth by the Trump administration and the GOP does nothing to help the nation’s low- and middle-income citizens, and largely benefits the über rich. It’s just one example, echoed by Oxfam’s report, of how despite growth in industry, the world’s economic policies are helping the rich get richer, while inhibiting the economic mobility of the poor.

Who Are the New Billionaires?

Oxfam also notes that nine of ten billionaires are men. Women the world over are paid less than men, and are often the majority laborers in the least-secure and lowest paying of jobs.

“While billionaires in one year saw their fortunes grow by $762 billion, women provide $10 trillion in unpaid care annually to support the global economy,” the report notes.

In order to balance the scales, Oxfam says nations and corporation need to commit to ending slave labor and poverty pay, as well as closing the gender wage gap. More than anything, Oxfam says that a lot of positive change will have to be procured through policy. “Governments should use regulation and taxation to radically reduce levels of extreme wealth, as well as limit the influence of wealthy individuals and groups over policy making,” the report says.

 Total income growth by percentile, 1980–2016
 Total income growth by percentile, 1980–2016

Unionization is also something that Oxfam believes needs to be a priority for ensuring workers’ rights and eliminating the disparity between the rich and the poor. “Set legal standards protecting the rights of workers to unionize and strike, and rescind all laws that go against these rights. Allow and support collective bargaining agreements with wide coverage,” the report says.

One last interesting statistic from the “Reward Work, Not Wealth” report: Oxfam estimates that a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child in the world to go to school.


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