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
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Sooner or later, a British university is going to go bankrupt

Theresa May's anti-immigration policies will have a big impact - and no-one is talking about it. 

The most effective way to regenerate somewhere? Build a university there. Of all the bits of the public sector, they have the most beneficial local effects – they create, near-instantly, a constellation of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Don’t forget that the housing crisis in England’s great cities is the jobs crisis everywhere else: universities not only attract students but create graduate employment, both through directly working for the university or servicing its students and staff.

In the United Kingdom, when you look at the renaissance of England’s cities from the 1990s to the present day, universities are often unnoticed and uncelebrated but they are always at the heart of the picture.

And crucial to their funding: the high fees of overseas students. Thanks to the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in television and film, the wide spread of English around the world, and the soft power of the BBC, particularly the World Service,  an education at a British university is highly prized around of the world. Add to that the fact that higher education is something that Britain does well and the conditions for financially secure development of regional centres of growth and jobs – supposedly the tentpole of Theresa May’s agenda – are all in place.

But at the Home Office, May did more to stop the flow of foreign students into higher education in Britain than any other minister since the Second World War. Under May, that department did its utmost to reduce the number of overseas students, despite opposition both from BIS, then responsible for higher education, and the Treasury, then supremely powerful under the leadership of George Osborne.

That’s the hidden story in today’s Office of National Statistics figures showing a drop in the number of international students. Even small falls in the number of international students has big repercussions for student funding. Take the University of Hull – one in six students are international students. But remove their contribution in fees and the University’s finances would instantly go from deficit into debt. At Imperial, international students make up a third of the student population – but contribute 56 per cent of student fee income.

Bluntly – if May continues to reduce student numbers, the end result is going to be a university going bust, with massive knock-on effects, not only for research enterprise but for the local economies of the surrounding area.

And that’s the trajectory under David Cameron, when the Home Office’s instincts faced strong countervailing pressure from a powerful Treasury and a department for Business, Innovation and Skills that for most of his premiership hosted a vocal Liberal Democrat who needed to be mollified. There’s every reason to believe that the Cameron-era trajectory will accelerate, rather than decline, now that May is at the Treasury, the new department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy doesn’t even have responsibility for higher education anymore. (That’s back at the Department for Education, where the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is a May loyalist.)

We talk about the pressures in the NHS or in care, and those, too, are warning lights in the British state. But watch out too, for a university that needs to be bailed out before long. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.