A new report released by Oxfam International shows that 82% of all wealth generated in 2017 went to the top 1%, while the poorest half of humanity got none of it. The report, titled Reward Work, Not Wealth paints a clear picture of the global economy’s exploitative and extractive character, highlighting facts like:
- Billionaire wealth has grown an average of 13% per year since 2010, while wages for ordinary workers has grown about 2% per year.
- Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in human history, adding one new billionaire every two days.
- Nine out of ten billionaires are men. Meanwhile, women provide about $10 trillion in unpaid labor annually in the form of domestic and care work.
But the report doesn’t stop with an analysis of the problem, it moves into solutions: “The economy does not need to be structured the way it is. We can create a more human economy that puts the interests of ordinary workers and small-scale food producers first, not the highly paid and the owners of wealth.”
How? Well, Oxfam has a concrete set of recommendations for how to reduce inequality globally. Unsurprisingly, one of the most basic is: “Eliminate slave labour and poverty pay. Transition from minimum wage levels to ‘living wages’ for all workers, based on evidence of the cost of living, and with full involvement of unions and other social partners.”
Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima says the results of the study should motivate those in power to move into action.
“It’s hard to find a political or business leader who doesn’t say they are worried about inequality. It’s even harder to find one who is doing something about it. People are ready for change. They want to see workers paid a living wage; they want corporations and the super-rich to pay more tax; they want women workers to enjoy the same rights as men; they want a limit on the power and the wealth which sits in the hands of so few. They want action.”
Here in St Paul, we must keep building the movement to demand the policy that working people need to live healthy dignified lives. A $15 minimum wage for all workers, with no carve-outs or exemptions, is a key part of that struggle.