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Oxfam: 22 men richer than Africa's 326 million women

BUSINESS
By Hillary Orinde | January 22nd 2020

The eight richest people on the planet. They have a combined fortune of $426billion.

The world’s 22 richest men have more combined wealth than all 325 million women in Africa, according to Oxfam International.

This is as only 2,153 people across the globe, controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion people, albeit doing little for the society with their huge fortunes, Oxfam says.

Picture this, if you saved Sh1m every day since Egypt built the pyramids, you would only have one-fifth the average fortune of the five richest billionaires.

The startling scale of inequality is laid bare in a 63-page Oxfam report released on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Oxfam, a Nairobi-headquartered charity, says the great divide “is based on a flawed and sexist economic system that values the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men, more than the billions of hours of the most essential work.”

It argues that economic inequality is out of control and too few governments are committed to fixing the broken capitalist system.

“Women and girls are among those who benefit the least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said.

He went on: “Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy.”

The report says women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day which contributes at least Sh1,080 trillion ($10.8 trillion) each year to the global economy.

This, Oxfam notes, is three times the size of the global tech industry.

“Women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload.

“Across the globe, 42 per cent of women of working age cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six per cent of men,” the report read.

The scale is further imbalanced for women as they make two-thirds of the paid ‘care workforce’.

“Jobs such as nursery workers, domestic workers, and care assistants are often poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll,” the report said.

Caregivers attend to a pregnant woman at a maternity hospital in Liberia. Oxfam says broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. [File, Standard]

The burden is poised to worsen with the increasing ageing population, cuts in public spending, and the climate crisis, the report warns.

“An estimated 2.3 billion people will be in need of care by 2030 —an increase of 200 million since 2015. Climate change could worsen the looming global care crisis —by 2025, up to 2.4 billion people will live in areas without enough water, and women and girls will have to walk even longer distances to fetch it.”

The heavy and unequal responsibility for unpaid care work falling on women and girls. Source: Oxfam.

Oxfam is now calling on governments to act immediately to build a human economy that is feminist and values what truly matters to society, rather than fuelling an endless pursuit of profit and wealth.

It recommends investing in “national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls”.

It also wants an introduction of progressive taxation, including taxing wealth and legislating in favour of carers, as possible and crucial first steps.

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