A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.

Inequality is an urgent, global problem—but the numbers are tricky

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Add up the wealth of the poorest half of the global population, and it’s the same as that of just 42 individuals, according to British charity Oxfam. The net worth of billionaires has grown 13% yearly since 2010, faster than the 2% seen by low-income workers, Oxfam said ahead of the Davos summit.

Published   |  Photo by Reuters/Vincent Kessler
A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
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The growing distance between the super-rich and the rest of the world is a result of tax evasion by the wealthy, the ability of corporations to influence policy-making, and the cutting of costs inherent to the pursuit of profit, according to Oxfam.

A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
42

A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
42

But these numbers should be interpreted carefully, since inequality is hard to measure. The rich tend to hide their wealth, and governments in poor countries don’t do a great job tracking poverty.

A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
42

For example, last year’s report said that in 2016 there were eight people with as much wealth as the poorest half. This year, it corrected that estimate to 61 people, then again to 42.

A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
42

Despite the change, and the difficulties in gathering data, inequality remains a real, urgent problem.

A general view shows the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 24, 2011. The annual meeting of the WEF takes place under heavy security measures from January 26 to 30 in the Alpine resort, and will be attended by top politicians, monetary policymakers and senior business executives.
42

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