A HANDFUL of men have the combined wealth of more than half the world’s population, according to an analysis by Oxfam.
Research by the human rights watchdog found that the eight richest men on the planet have a collective worth of US$426 billion ($AU570 billion).
The eight include six American businessmen, including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who remains the world’s richest man (scroll down for the full list).
By contrast, the combined fortunes of 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest inhabitants adds up to a measly US$409 billion ($AU547 billion).
The figures showed the gap between rich and poor is “far greater than had been feared” and pointed to a growing discontent with mainstream politics around the world.
“This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before,” Oxfam Great Britain CEO Mark Goldring said.
“It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.”
The report was released on the eve of the 47th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Inequality will be among the issues topping the agenda as 3000 members of the world’s business and political elite meet in Davos from Tuesday to Friday.
Oxfam pointed to a link between the vast gap between rich and poor and growing discontent with mainstream politics around the world.
“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” it said in the report titled “An economy for the 99 per cent”.
The theme of this year’s summit is “Responsive and responsible leadership”, which organisers said was a response to a “backlash against globalisation leading to two surprising vote results and a rise in populism in the West”.
In its report Oxfam called for an increase in tax rates targeting “rich individuals and cooperations”, as well as a global agreement to end competition between countries to lower corporate tax rates.
The charity also decried lobbying by corporations and the closeness of business and politics, calling for mandatory public lobby registries and stronger rules on conflicts of interest.
It said the concentration of wealth at the top was crippling the fight to end global poverty as the business sector focused increasingly on delivering “ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives.”
“Companies are structured to dodge taxes, drive down workers’ wages and squeeze producers instead of fairly contributing to an economy that benefits everyone,” Oxfam said.
The report found that between 1988 and 2011, the incomes of the poorest 10 per cent increased by just US$65 (AUD86), while the incomes of the richest one per cent grew by US$11,800 (AUD15,800) — 182 times as much.
“While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it,” Mr Goldring said.
“The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.
“Inequality is not only keeping millions of people trapped in poverty, it is fracturing our societies and poisoning our politics.
“It’s just not right that top executives take home massive bonuses while workers’ wages are stagnating or that multinationals and millionaires dodge taxes while public services are being cut.”
In 2016, the charity calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population.
The number had fallen to just eight this year because new data on wealth distribution from countries such as India and China had prompted it to revise its figures.
Oxfam said it was still the case that the world’s richest one per cent had as much wealth as the rest of the world combined.
THE RICHEST MEN IN THE WORLD
These eight billionaires have a combined wealth of 3.6 billion of the poorest people on the planet, according to Oxfam.
8) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
US founder, owner, CEO of Bloomberg LP — net worth: US$40 billion (AUD )
7. LARRY ELLISON
US co-founder, CEO of Oracle — net worth US$43.6 billion (AUD58 billion)
6. MARK ZUCKERBERG
US chairman, CEO, co-founder of Facebook — net worth US$44.6 billion (AUD59 billion)
5. JEFF BEZOS
US founder, chairman, CEO of Amazon — net worth: US$45.2 billion (AUD60 billion)
4. CARLOS SLIM HELU
Owner of Mexico’s Grupo Carso — net worth US$50 billion (AUD67 billion)
3. WARREN BUFFETT
US CEO, largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway — net worth US$60.8 billion (AUD81 billion)
2. AMANCIO ORTEGA
Founder of Spain’s Inditex, Zara fashion chain — net worth US$67 billion (AUD89 billion)
1. BILL GATES
US founder of Microsoft Corp — net worth US $75 billion (AUD100 billion)