Research conducted by the British charity Oxfam has concluded that the combined wealth of the world's 85 richest people is equivalent to that owned by the bottom half - in wealth terms -of the world's population.
The report, titled "Working for the Few," claims that the 1% richest people on the planet are rich to the tune of $110 trillion.
"This capture of opportunities by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has helped create a situation where seven out of every ten people in the world live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and one per cent of the world's families now own 46% of its wealth ($110 trillion), Oxfam said in a statement announcing the study, published in time for this week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
The WEF has identified income inequality as one of the greatest risks facing the world in 2014.
Oxfam's study notes that "In many countries, extreme economic inequality is worrying because of the pernicious impact that wealth concentrations can have on equal political representation. When wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else. The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all. Unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise."
The development charity did not identify the 85 richest people cited in its study.
It is calling on political and corporate leaders gathering in Davos to:
- Refrain from using their wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
- Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
- Challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens;
- Demand a living wage in all companies they own or control.