In signs of rising income inequality, India’s richest 1 per cent now hold a huge 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth — higher than the global figure of about 50 per cent, a new study showed on Monday.
The study, released by rights group Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting here attended by rich and powerful from across the world, showed that just 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth (USD 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of the country.
Globally, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population.
The study said there are 84 billionaires in India, with a collective wealth of USD 248 billion, led by Mukesh Ambani (USD 19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi (USD 16.7 billion) and Azim Premji (USD 15 billion). The total Indian wealth in the country stood at USD 3.1 trillion.
The total global wealth in the year was USD 255.7 trillion, of which about USD 6.5 trillion was held by billionaires, led by Bill Gates (USD 75 billion), Amancio Ortega (USD 67 billion) and Warren Buffett (USD 60.8 billion).
In the report titled ‘An economy for the 99 per cent’, Oxfam said it is time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few.
It said that since 2015, the richest 1 per cent has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet.
“Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over USD 2.1 trillion to their heirs — a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people,” Oxfam said.
The study findings showed that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought while over the last two decades, the richest 10 per cent of the population in China, Indonesia, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15 per cent.
On the other hand, the poorest 10 per cent have seen their share of income fall by more than 15 per cent.
“Due to a combination of discrimination and working in low-pay sectors, women’s wages across Asia are between 70-90 per cent of men’s,” it said.
Referring to the Global Wage Report 2016-17 of International Labour Organisation, the study said India suffers from huge gender pay gap and has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30 per cent.
In India, women form 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners. It means that in India women are not only poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, but also experience wide gender pay gap at the bottom.
It also said that more than 40 per cent of the 400 million women who live in rural India are involved in agriculture and related activities. However, as women are not recognised as farmers and do not own land, they have limited access to government schemes and credit, restricting their agricultural productivity.