Extreme inequality and essential services


Our economy is broken. From Ghana to Spain, India to Brazil, absurd levels of wealth exist alongside desperate poverty. Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. In countries around the world, a small elite are taking an ever-increasing share of their nation’s income, while hundreds of millions of people are still living without access to clean water and without enough food to feed their families.

Extreme inequality is hurting us all, but it is the poorest people who suffer most – especially women and girls. No matter how hard they work, far too many suffer the indignity of poverty wages and are denied basic rights. In many countries a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford.

Let's look at the numbers

26 people own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.

The number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis and their fortunes grow by $2.5bn a day.

More than 750 million people – 1 in 10 – still live in extreme poverty in the global South, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Every year, 100 million people worldwide are pushed into poverty because they have to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare.

Getting the richest 1% to pay just 0.5% extra tax on their wealth would raise more money than it could cost to give 262 million children a school education.

Extreme inequality: a barrier to poverty reduction

The gap between rich and poor grows wider every year and leads to huge differences in life chances. It exacerbates existing inequalities in other areas, such as those based on gender, geography, ethnicity, race, caste or religion. It damages our economies, fuels public anger across the globe and stands in the way of eliminating global poverty.

The race to the bottom on personal income and corporate tax is a large part of the problem. While public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies, many governments are under-taxing corporations and wealthy individuals, loosing significant amounts of money that could be invested in schools, hospitals and roads. Corporate tax dodging costs poor countries at least $100 billion every year.

Fighting for a more equal world

From campaigning to end the financial secrecy that shelters trillions hidden in tax havens, to encouraging investment in universal education and healthcare – Oxfam is working to make sure that the poor get a share of the power and resources that will help to reduce poverty and inequality. We have extensive experience of delivering programs and campaigns that advance people's rights through work on tax, budget and social accountability.

Our key approaches include:

  • Invest in work on tax justice and domestic resources mobilization and advocate fairer, pro-poor taxation policies
  • Support civil society to monitor public finance and to hold governments accountable for delivery of free quality services
  • Support campaigns for health and education and support organizations that work with governments on innovative ways to reach women and girls

Extreme inequality is not inevitable or accidental. It is the result of deliberate political and economic choices, and it can be reversed.