Davos: The wealth that the richest 1% of the country added to its fortune over the past 12 months — a whopping amount of Rs 20.91 lakh crore — was as much as the country’s Budget that year. A new study by Oxfam international on Sunday brought to the fore how this 1% had cornered 73% of the wealth and the income disparity the country experiences.
The study — 'Reward Work, Not Wealth' — for which Oxfam reached out to thousands of people across India, also came up with interesting reflections on the prevailing public sentiment just as the Centre is gearing up to present its last full-Budget before the 2019 General Elections.
Over half the people that the survey reached out to said that they would like to see this 1% of India’s rich being taxed more heavily.
Over 73% respondents felt that the gap between the rich and poor needs to be addressed ‘urgently’ or ‘very urgently’ while over 15% of the respondents felt that it was difficult for a person to increase their wealth despite working hard.
Oxfam also came up with several interesting statistics on income disparity after surveying more than 1,20,000 people across 10 countries, including the UK, US, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and India.
For instance, it states that the top 1% of India bagged 73% of all the wealth generated last year and at the same time, the poorest half of the population, which is made of 67 crore Indians, saw its wealth increase by just 1% over the same period.
The annual Oxfam survey is keenly watched and is discussed in detail at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting where rising income and gender inequality is among the key talking points for the world leaders. Among those participating this year is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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.
The study further goes on to claim that the amount that India’s billionaires earned for themselves over the past one year — Rs 4,89,100 crore — is sufficient to finance 85% of all states' budget on health and education.
Last year's survey had showed that India's richest 1 percent held a huge 58 percent of the country's total wealth – higher than the global figure of about 50 percent.
India’s billionaires have increased their fortunes from Rs 15.77 lakh crore to Rs 20.67 lakh crore in past one year, the study claims.
The crowd of Indian billionaires also includes 17 new entrants, taking the total number of billionaires in India to 101, thus breaching the 100 billionaires’ benchmark for the first time. India had just 9 billionaires in 2000.
But as the rich get even richer, life doesn’t seem to get any better for the working class of the country, the study suggests. Sample this: one in every two workers in India’s garment sector is paid lesser than the minimum wage or the fact that it would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.
The study further 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.
Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal said it is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands.
"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 percent a year since 2010 — six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent," the Oxfam study said.
“In 12 months, the wealth of this elite group has increased by $762 billion. This is enough to end extreme poverty seven times over,” the report goes on to state.