Davos : The richest one per cent in India cornered 73 per cent of the wealth generated in the country last year, a survey showed on Monday, presenting a worrying picture of rising income inequality. Besides, 67 crore Indians comprising the population’s poorest half saw their wealth rise by just one per cent, as per the survey released by international rights group Oxfam, hours before the start of the annual congregation of the rich and powerful from across the world in Davos. Globally, the situation is grim, where 82 per cent of the wealth generated last year worldwide went to one per cent, while 3.7 billion people that account for the poorest half of population saw no increase in their wealth.
The annual Oxfam survey is keenly watched and is discussed in detail at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting where rising income and gender inequality is among the key talking points for world leaders. Last year’s survey had showed that India’s richest one per cent held a huge 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth — higher than the global figure of about 50 per cent. This year’s survey showed that the wealth of India’s richest one per cent increased by over Rs 20.9 lakh crore during 2017 — an amount equivalent to total budget of the central government in 2017-18, Oxfam India stated. The report titled ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, Oxfam said, reveals how the global economy enables wealthy elite to accumulate vast wealth even as hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. “2017 saw an unprecedented increase in the number of billionaires, at a rate of one every two days. Billionaire wealth has risen by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2010 — six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just two per cent,” it said. In India, it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year, the study found. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year, it added. Citing results of the global survey of 70,000 people surveyed in 10 countries, Oxfam said it demonstrates a groundswell of support for action on inequality and nearly two-thirds of all respondents think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be urgently addressed.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the WEF meeting in Davos, Oxfam India urged the Indian government to ensure that the country’s economy works for everyone and not just the fortunate few. It asked the government to promote inclusive growth by encouraging labour-intensive sectors that will create more jobs; investing in agriculture; and effectively implementing the social protection schemes that exist. Oxfam also sought sealing of the “leaking wealth bucket” by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance, imposing higher tax on super-rich and removing corporate tax breaks. The survey respondents in countries like the US, UK and India also favoured 60 per cent pay cut for CEOs.
The key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions, Oxfam said, include erosion of workers’ rights; excessive influence of big business over government policy- making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to shareholders. About India, it said the country added 17 new billionaires last year, taking the total to 101.