Today’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people.

Oxfam America
5 min readJan 20, 2020


The inequality crisis our world is seeing today is spiraling out of control. The global economy is good at producing billionaires, but not so good at producing good jobs and rising incomes for working people.

Arlene, a shop owner and mother of four living in the Philippines, became the sole breadwinner in her family after her husband Eduardo suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. Women and girls put in more than 12 billion hours of unpaid care work every day — a contribution to the global economy of almost $11 trillion a year. Photo: Jed Regala/Oxfam

While political leaders and business elites gather this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, our latest report, “Time to Care,” shows how our sexist economy is fueling the global inequality crisis.

In 2019, the world’s billionaires had more wealth than 4.6 billion people. That’s around 60 percent of our world’s population, and most of these people are struggling to survive on just $5.50 a day.

Take a minute to let that sink in.

How rich is billionaire rich? Imagine everyone on the planet sitting on their wealth piled up in $100 bills. Most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country like the US would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.

At the top of the global economy, a small elite are unimaginably rich, a majority of whom are white men. Our sexist economy allows their wealth to grow more and more rapidly over time that at the expense of everyday people. It’s no coincidence that 9 out of 10 billionaires are men. Or that the richest 22 men in the world own more wealth than all the women on the entire continent of Africa.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the economy, everyday people can’t get ahead. Women and girls, especially those living in poverty, suffer from high levels of economic discrimination, work in the lowest paid jobs, and take on the biggest share of unpaid care work. Oxfam estimates that globally, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day — a contribution to the global economy of nearly $11 trillion a year.

Take Arlene Cinco, a shop owner and mother of four living in the Philippines. Her husband, Eduardo, suffered from a stroke in 2016 and became paralyzed. She is now the sole breadwinner, working several jobs to earn money to pay the bills and her husband’s medications. On top of bringing in her family’s income, she also spends countless hours taking care of her husband and doing all the household chores. She loves being involved in her children’s lives, but without any extra care or financial support, carving out valuable family time is impossible.

The US is no different. Unpaid care work and poverty is just as prevalent here as it is globally; with tens of millions of Americans working good jobs, but still finding themselves living in poverty and unable to get ahead. The value of women and girls’ unpaid work in the US is $1.48 trillion annually — that’s about double the annual revenue of America’s top five big tech companies.

It’s clear the richest are rigging our economy for themselves, starting with America’s billionaire president. The new US tax law that was introduced in 2017 and championed by President Trump was a master class in how to favor massive corporations and the richest citizens. It was billed as an “end corporate tax avoidance,” but instead delivered a nice bonus to companies and wealthy individuals who needed it least. The law rewarded the biggest tax dodgers with huge tax breaks and failed to deliver meaningful reforms that benefit working people and the poor.

Pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, and Abbott Laboratories benefited from an estimated $7 billion in tax savings in 2018 from two central provisions in the new US tax law. This gain is enough to pay for health insurance for more than two-thirds of the children in the US who do not have health coverage.

The current income gap is so large that if we got the world’s richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra in taxes on their wealth over the next 10 years, the amount would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and child care, education, and health.

We must hold our leaders accountable or things will only get worse. The ability to work hard and rise up from humble beginnings — the American Dream — is becoming a myth from our past. Our biggest challenges today — economic inequality, climate change, gender inequality, refugee crises — are challenges faced by people around the world. These problems, and the poverty they create, are only getting bigger, and while the wealthy and powerful elite can afford to buy their way out of feeling the worst effects of these crises, the poor and powerless can’t.

If we want to tackle extreme inequality, we must demand action from our elected leaders to reverse the capture of our government by wealthy interests and above all to vote. There is so much at stake and we must fight now for what we believe in — we are running out of time.

It’s time to fight for dignity for every person. This election, Oxfam is asking Americans to demand that all presidential candidates rise to the moment and ensure that the United States lives up to our ideals. Raise your voice. Vote. Get involved. Demand #DignityforAll.

By Becky Davis, Oxfam America’s press officer for policy and campaigns



Oxfam America

We’re a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.