Last year was another bumper year for the very richest people in the world and another step backward for billions of others, according to Oxfam's annual report on inequality ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The report estimates that the lowest-income 50% of the world, or around 3.7 billion people, saw no increase at all in their wealth, while some 82% of the wealth generated worldwide went to the 1%, CNN reports. "The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system," warned Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.
Oxfam blames the continuing rise in inequality on tax evasion, erosion of workers' rights, and corporate influence on government policy, among other things, the BBC reports. The group says just 42 people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest 50%—though it has revised last year's estimate from eight people to 61, based on what it says was "improved data." "However you look at it, this is an unacceptable level of inequality," Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring says. He says that business and political leaders often start out the annual meeting by making promises to address inequality, but "tough talk fades away at the first resistance." (Read more Oxfam stories.)