Wealth accumulated by the richest one percent will exceed that of the other 99 percent in 2016, the Oxfam charity said on Monday, ahead of the annual meeting of the world's most powerful people at Davos, Switzerland.
"The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast," Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said.
The richest one percent's share of global wealth increased from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014, the British charity said in a report, adding that it will be more that 50 percent in 2016. The average wealth per adult in this group is $2.7 million, Oxfam said. Of the remaining 52 percent, almost all - 46 percent - is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world's population, leaving the other 80 percent to share just 5.5 percent with an average wealth of $3,851 per adult, the report says.
Byanyima, who is to co-chair at the Davos World Economic Forum taking place Wednesday through Friday, urged leaders to take on "vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world."
Oxfam called upon states to tackle tax evasion, improve public services, tax capital rather than labor, and introduce living minimum wages, among other measures, in a bid to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
The 45th World Economic Forum that runs from Wednesday to Saturday will draw a record number of participants this year with more than 300 heads of state and government attending.
Rising inequality will be competing with other global crises including terrorist threats in Europe, the worst post-Cold War stand-off between Russia and the West and renewed fears of financial turmoil.
France's Francois Hollande, Germany's Angela Merkel and China's Li Keqiang will be among the world leaders seeking to chart a path away from fundamentalism towards solidarity. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are also expected.
Beyond geopolitical crises, hot-button issues like the Ebola epidemic, the challenges posed by plunging oil prices and the future of technology will also be addressed at the posh Swiss ski resort.
The Oxfam study uses data from Credit Suisse's global wealth report and the Forbes billionaires list.
One-fifth of global billionaires "have interests in the financial and insurance sectors" and saw their cash wealth climb 11 percent in the past year, the Oxfam brief states. Pharmaceutical and health-care billionaires saw a 47 percent bump in collective worth.
"Oxfam is concerned that the lobbying power of these sectors is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system," the release states.
The group proposes a crackdown on corporate and individual tax dodging, more investment in free public services, and a shift in taxes toward capital and wealth to help fix the problem.