These days, what with inflation and the high cost of living and all, being a millionaire doesn’t mean shit. If you really want to make it onto a Forbes list, you’ve gotta be a billionaire, baby! And according to a new report from Oxfam, the number of Australian billionaires has more than doubled over the past 10 years… while wage growth for ordinary workers has totally stagnated. Big names like Gina Rinehart and James Packer have recently been joined by a bunch of other people who I’m extremely sure are donating heaps of money to charitable causes and not just like, lobbying the government for more tax breaks.
The report, titled Reward Work Not Wealth, helpfully outlines how working hard doesn’t seem to correlate with financial success—especially not in Australia, where the gap between rich and poor is larger than it has been in 20 years. The incomes of all Australians except for the top 20 percent of earners have been falling continuously over the past two decades, and in 2017 23 percent of Australia’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of the top one percent of earners.
“Over the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, the wealth of Australian billionaires has increased by almost 140 percent to a total of $115.4 billion last year. Yet over the same time, the average wages of ordinary Australians have increased by just 36 percent and average household wealth grew by 12 percent,” Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said in a press release.
“The richest one per cent of Australians continue to own more wealth than the bottom 70 percent of Australians combined. While everyday Australians are struggling more and more to get by, the wealthiest groups have grown richer and richer.”
The report also highlights how Australia’s rich are profiting from disadvantaged people in other countries. A CEO of an Australian fashion company, for example, can earn millions per year—while garment makers in Bangladesh will earn as little as $0.39 per hour.
Oxfam is calling upon the Australian Government to put pressure on companies to pay their employees—here and overseas—living wages. The organisation is also calling on Australian corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
Wealth inequality in Australia is the worst it has ever been, but even more depressing is the fact we’re joining a global trend. Worldwide, billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762bn in the year 2017 alone. Just something to mull over while you check your bank balance before buying a coffee tomorrow morning.
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