Finance Finance News Australia’s rich keep getting richer, with billionaires’ wealth rising $160bn in one year

Australia’s rich keep getting richer, with billionaires’ wealth rising $160bn in one year

billionaires get richer
The incomes of Australia's wealthiest people have surged. Photo: Getty
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Australia’s rich keep getting richer, with the top 1 per cent of Australians owning more wealth than the bottom 70 per cent combined.

A new report from Oxfam has found another record increase in the number of billionaires in Australia – from 33 to 43 – with their combined wealth climbing to almost $160 billion last year.

Oxfam said this equates to an increase of $100 million a day, or a total increase of $36 billion, and is enough to cover half the federal government’s total health budget this financial year.

Helen Szoke, chief executive of Oxfam Australia, said the paper – released ahead of political and business leaders meeting for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – showed that the most disadvantaged remained trapped in an entrenched cycle of poverty.

“The wealth of the bottom half of our community has not changed and ordinary workers’ wage growth has remained stagnant,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet the pervasive gap between the haves and the have-nots persists. This inequality simply cannot, and does not need to, continue.”

Call to do more to fight multinational tax avoidance

Dr Szoke called on the federal government to introduce tougher laws aimed at multinationals that still might be avoiding tax.

Recent ATO data showed about a third of Australian companies paid zero tax.

Oxfam wants the tax man to require companies to give detailed public reports about their tax affairs by country.

Currently the information – as part of an OECD initiative to have each jurisdiction around the world collect detailed tax information about companies and share it with others – is collected by the ATO, but not revealed publicly.

Dr Szoke also called on the federal government to reinstate a women’s budget and pay greater attention to health and education outcomes for Indigenous people.

Australian women continued to face economic disadvantage – earning 85 cents for every dollar earned by men and are dealt a gender pay gap that continues to favour men in every single industry, she said.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians fall into the wealth group that is being left behind.

Oxfam noted that the latest federal government report on Indigenous health performance shows that 36 per cent of Indigenous households have weekly incomes in the bottom 25 per cent of income groups (compared to 17 per cent for non-Indigenous groups).

And the 2016 Census shows that about 80 per cent of Indigenous adults have weekly incomes below the national average earnings ($1,160 per week).

“The yawning gap between health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia – who face a devastating infant mortality rate that is double that of non-Indigenous women, and even worse in remote areas – is a symptom of this stark inequality,” Dr Szoke said.

Jeff Bezos’ wealth equals Ethiopia’s health budget

Oxfam’s report found that in the 10 years since the global financial crisis, the number of billionaires around the world has nearly doubled.

The wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $900 billion in the past year alone, or $2.5 billion a day.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, with a fortune of $US112 billion ($156 billion) on the 2018 Forbes list.

The report states that just 1 per cent of his total wealth is the equivalent of almost the whole health budget of Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.

It also singled out India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, who ranks 19th in the Forbes 2018 billionaire list.

His residence in Mumbai, a towering 175-metre building, is worth $1 billion and is the most expensive private house in the world.

Wealth is also becoming more concentrated – last year 26 people owned the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 43 people the year before.

Super-rich hide $7.6 trillion from tax authorities

Wealth is also undertaxed, according to Oxfam. Only 4 cents in every dollar of tax revenue comes from taxes on wealth, the report found.

Oxfam said governments should focus their efforts on raising more from the very wealthy to help fight inequality around the world.

“The super-rich are hiding $7.6 trillion from the tax authorities,” the report argued.

“Corporates also hide large amounts offshore. Together this deprives developing countries of $170 billion a year.”

In the 2013 book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations, Gabriel Zucman suggests that $US7.6 trillion ($10.6 trillion) – 8 per cent of the world’s personal financial wealth – is stashed in tax havens. His numbers do not include corporate tax avoidance.

Meanwhile the report notes the impacts of entrenched inequality. The report noted that 10,000 people die each day because of a lack of access to affordable healthcare.

Oxfam also observed that, in developing countries, a child from a poor family is twice as likely to die before the age of five than a child from a wealthy family.

Gender pay gaps also persist across the world. Men own 50 per cent more wealth than women globally, and control more than 86 per cent of corporations.

Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple.