Economic Slavery in the 21st Century: A Few People Richer Than the Rest of the World


Economic Slavery in the 21st Century: A Few People Richer Than the Rest of the World
© Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The gap between the rich and the poor is widening at an alarming rate, as revealed in Oxfam's latest report. The stark reality is that the five richest individuals on the planet have doubled their wealth since 2020, while nearly five billion people, 60 percent of the world's population, are sinking deeper into poverty.

All over the world in third world countries, especially Africa and parts of Asia, people literally have nothing to eat, while a few people have almost all the wealth of the world that exists. This escalating inequality, exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, raises concerns about the sustainability of the global economic system that perpetuates such disparities.

Oxfam warns that if current trends continue, it could take a whopping 229 years to eradicate poverty worldwide. Unprecedented accumulation of wealth Oxfam's report highlights the staggering rise in the wealth of the world's billionaires.

As of 2020, the collective net worth of the five richest individuals Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg—has grown by a whopping $464 billion, an increase of a staggering 114 percent.

This astonishing accumulation of wealth is more than a statistical figure; it symbolizes the widening chasm between the privileged few and the struggling majority. What is most interesting is that the richest and most influential people in the world generally avoid commenting on this really big and dangerous problem.

Although journalists try to ask a question about this problem, they would every time cleverly avoid answering it by giving some imprecise answers and leaving the public without a concrete answer.

Elon Musk© Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Corporate influence and executive wealth The report sheds light on the intertwining of corporate power and individual wealth.

Seven out of ten of the world's largest corporations boast a billionaire as CEO or major shareholder. This relationship is disturbing, especially when compared to the stagnant living standards of millions of workers around the world.

Imagine a situation where while the Director is a billionaire, the worker is in debt and cannot send his child to school. This fact seems unsettling, because capitalism seems to have ended up driving workers into debt slavery.

While the super-rich amass unprecedented wealth, the average worker struggles with precarious employment, stagnant wages and unsafe working conditions. The plight of workers around the world is a central theme in Oxfam's report.

The troubling reality is emerging as people around the world work longer and harder, often for poor pay, in jobs that don't even offer security. The report states that in 52 countries, the average real earnings of nearly 800 million workers fell.

The cumulative loss for these workers over the past two years is a staggering $1.5 billion – the equivalent of 25 unpaid days per worker. When you know the cumulative loss of workers, but also the gain of the richest people in the world, the calculation is clear, the world is entering a new era of slavery.

This grim reality underscores the immediate need for global economic restructuring to prioritize workers' well-being.

Ford Factory© Carl Court / Getty Images

Corporate profits and the rising cost of living Even as household budgets strain under the weight of rising living costs, corporate profits have soared.

The world's 148 largest corporations reported a combined net profit of $1.8 billion in the period to June 2023 – a 52 percent increase over the average net profit between 2018 and 2021. This discrepancy between the financial success of corporations and the economic challenges they face individuals face the demands of the urgency of systemic changes.

Unfortunately, many workers are not aware of the situation they are in, and what the real picture of their company's business is. Wealth tax as a solution In response to growing wealth inequality, Oxfam is pushing for a wealth tax.

The report suggests that a tax on the net worth of Britain's millionaires and billionaires, ranging from 1 to 2 percent on assets of more than £10 million, could generate around £22 billion a year for the national budget.

This proposed wealth tax is positioned as a necessary step towards rebalancing the scales and addressing the growing divide between workers and super-rich employers. But one question still arises, if this tax is introduced in Great Britain, and the national budget is enriched with huge funds, will these funds be invested to help the working class.

Oxfam's report serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive global economic reform. The fact that the five richest individuals have doubled their wealth in just a few years while billions struggle in poverty is a call to action.

The intertwined relationship between corporate influence, the wealth of managers and the plight of workers are reason enough to finally start making real systemic changes. The implementation of a wealth tax is not only proposed as a financial solution but also as a moral imperative to bridge the widening gap between the privileged elite and the rest of the world, but the question remains whether workers will benefit from the funds raised by the tax.