Some stats for Davos: The richest 1 per cent own almost half the world's wealth

Global inequality in numbers.

As the world’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen and politicians fly into Davos for the annual World Economic Forum, and book into hotels like the Belvedere Hotel - which has stocked up on 1,594 bottles of champagne and prosecco, 80kg of salmon and 16,805 canapes to feed the high-profile delegates setting the world to rights – it’s worth revisiting Oxfam’s recent figures on the state of global inequality today:

1. The richest 1 per cent own almost half the world’s wealth ($110tn).

2. The richest 85 people own the same combined wealth as the poorest half of the world.

3. The richest 10 per cent own 86 per cent of all assets, while the poorest 70 per cent own just 3 per cent of the world’s assets.

4. The combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people is more than the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the EU between 2008 and 2010 (€217bn v €300bn).

5. The pre-tax income of the richest 1 per cent increased between 1980 and today in 24 out of 26 countries on the World Top Incomes Database. In China, Portugal and the US the incomes of the richest 1 more than doubled their share of national income in this period.

6. Since 1970, the tax on the richest has decreased in 29 out of 30 countries measured.

7. An estimated $18.5tn is held in offshore tax havens on behalf of multi-national companies and wealthy individuals. This is more than the GDP of the US.

8. Between 2008 and 2010 Sub-Saharan Africa lost $63.4bn in aid a year due to tax avoidance and evasion, more than twice the amount it received in aid.

You can read Oxfam’s report here.

Davos in Switzerland, where business leaders and politicians are meeting for the World Economic Forum. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.