From Ghana to Germany, South Africa to Spain, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing, and economic inequality* has reached extreme levels. In South Africa, inequality is greater today than at the end of Apartheid.7
The consequences are corrosive for everyone. Extreme inequality corrupts politics, hinders economic growth and stifles social mobility. It fuels crime and even violent conflict. It squanders talent, thwarts potential and undermines the foundations of society.
Crucially, the rapid rise of extreme economic inequality is standing in the way of eliminating global poverty. Today, hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families; many are working themselves into the ground just to get by. We can only improve life for the majority if we tackle the extreme concentration of wealth and power in the hands of elites.
Oxfam’s decades of experience in the world’s poorest communities have taught us that poverty and inequality are not inevitable or accidental, but the result of deliberate policy choices. Inequality can be reversed. The world needs concerted action to build a fairer economic and political system that values everyone. The rules and systems that have led to today’s inequality explosion must change. Urgent action is needed to level the playing field by implementing policies that redistribute money and power from wealthy elites to the majority.
Using new research and examples, this report shows the scale of the problemof extreme economic inequality, and reveals the multiple dangers it poses to people everywhere. It identifies the two powerful driving forces that have led to the rapid rise in inequality in so many countries: market fundamentalism and the capture of politics by elites. The report then highlights some of the concrete steps that can be taken to tackle this threat, and presents evidence that change can happen.
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