Top 1% earns a 10th of all income, says Oxfam

Report points out inequality gap continued to widen even as country gripped in full force of financial crisis

Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarken: stressed that the report should not be interpreted as an “anti-wealthy rant”.

Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarken: stressed that the report should not be interpreted as an “anti-wealthy rant”.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 01:00


Deepening financial inequality in Ireland has grown to the extent that by 2009 the top 1 per cent of the country’s wealthiest people earned more than 10 per cent of the entire national income, new data from the charity Oxfam has shown.

The information on Ireland is contained in the same report that showed that the world’s richest 85 people had as much wealth as half of the global population.

Working for the Few, published this week, has also analysed the growing inequality in Ireland, which the charity says must be addressed.

It highlights a 58 per cent increase in the share of pre-tax income going to the richest 1 per cent of people in Ireland over the last 30 years.

In 1980, it says, the same proportion of the Irish elite held 6.65 per cent of the entire national income while in 2009 that proportion had increased to 10.5 per cent.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, Jim Clarken, said the global study had been quoted in some 3,000 publications and it is hoped it may bring some influence to bear on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.


Financial crisis
He explained that the inequality gap had continued to widen even as the country was gripped in the full force of a financial crisis.

“It’s a big concern to Oxfam and it should be a big concern to policy makers,” he said.

“It also means that poverty becomes embedded. Since the collapse, [the richest people’s] income has gradually been increasing while for others poverty has been increasing.

“It’s still a fact that if you are on a lower salary or on social welfare, cuts over the last few years would have had a much bigger impact on you than on the more well off.

“[Political leaders] need to be very cognisant of this inequality and the damage it has on society. The fact that the poorest people are locked into that poverty, it’s very hard for them to find their way out.”


‘Anti-wealthy rant’
Mr Clarken stressed that the report should not be interpreted as an “anti-wealthy rant”; that people were entitled to be successful and Ireland was in need of entrepreneurs.

However, pointing to the global picture, he said it was a question of sheer scale, where global inequality has increased to the extent that the $1.2 trillion combined wealth of the 85 richest people in the world is equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion.