(GIN)–The rich are getting richer, businesses are thriving, but it’s hard not to notice that discontent is growing among the expanding poor and middle class and could soon pose a threat to the well-to-do.
At the exclusive World Economic Forum, an annual event held in Davos, Switzerland, income inequality was the talk among many corporate leaders, and the good jobs being lost to trade and automation.
“We’re living in a Gilded Age,” said Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, which manages more than $265 billion in assets. “I think, in America, the aristocrats are out of touch. They don’t understand the issues around the common man.”
In fact, a new Global Risks Report declares that humanity is “sleepwalking its way to catastrophe” referring to extreme weather, failure to act on climate change, among other threats.
For the jobless poor, a new buzzword–“upskilling”–was bandied about. Training could help people obtain better jobs in the digital economy, some assert.
Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone, doubled down on the need for digital education which would lessen the inequalities that people have in terms of job opportunities.
It’s “up to the grown-ups” to make digital upskilling happen in K-12 schools, said Mr. Schwarzman, whose net worth is estimated at $13 billion.
But what most of the elites are uniformly against is a solution to be found in taxing wealth.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, couldn’t disagree more. “We’re in a world where governments do not tax wealth enough, do not tax the rich enough.”
Billionaire fortunes are spiraling by $2.5 billion daily, according to Oxfam in a new report. The share of wealth held by billionaires increases by $2.5 billion a day, while the share of wealth among the 3.8 billion of the world’s poorest decreases by $500 million a day.
“Our economy is broken,” said Ms. Byanyima, originally from Uganda. “Hundreds of millions live in extreme poverty while huge rewards go to those at the very top.”
Governments are fueling this inequality crisis, she insists. “They are under-taxing corporations and wealthy individuals, while underfunding vital public services like healthcare and education … The human costs are huge, with women and girls. suffering the most.”
Countries cited by Oxfam with the greatest income inequality gap were Nigeria, Brazil, Ghana and Kenya.
The Forum ran from Jan. 22-25. To read the Oxfam briefing paper released in January, visit www.oxfam.org.