Oxfam grabs a headline with a report telling us the richest 1% will own half the world’s wealth in 2016.
As with many reports coming from lobbying organisations, this one provokes scepticism. Not outright dismissal, but a “really“, and a need to know what they’re actually measuring before I can treat it as meaningful. It also provokes mild curiosity: how rich do you have to be to be in that 1% (not least because I have a sneaking suspicion it includes a great many people who our chattering classes don’t consider at all rich).
The Oxfam report itself is a mere twelve pages and disappointingly light on data. If there’s any attempt to substantiate the headline claim then I missed it. But googling “World Wealth” finds this report, which tells me total world wealth is projected to be $64.3 trillion in 2016. OK, that’ll do for a ballpark calculation. $64.3 trillion between 7 billion people is an average of about $9k per head. If the top 1% own half of it, that’s $32.15 trillion between 70 million people: an average of $459k per head within that top 1%.
That’s £300k. There must be a millions in Blighty with that much in housing wealth alone (and others correspondingly locked out). Not to mention in other high-cost countries around Europe, America, Asia, and I expect even a few in the third world. All above the average of that fabled top 1%.
But of course housing isn’t our only asset. In Blighty and around the developed world, a big chunk of our wealth takes the form of Entitlements. One such in the UK is the Basic State Pension, which is worth £200k, and even the poorest Brit is entitled to it. It seems you can be in that top 1% without being rich enough to buy a house in Blighty!
Hmmm. Oh dear. Maybe Oxfam’s spin isn’t really very meaningful at all. Except perhaps to highlight how incredibly egalitarian we are within Blighty – and probably all developed countries – once you include the effect of government actions.