Two Australian billionaires are wealthier than the bottom fifth of the population, a global report by Oxfam into wealth inequality shows.
Source:
AAP
16 Jan 2017 - 11:04 AM  UPDATED 17 Jan 2017 - 7:39 AM

Australia's two richest people, Gina Rinehart and Harry Triguboff, own more than the poorest 20 per cent of the country's population, research shows.

Worth an estimated combined $US16.1 billion ($A21.5 billion), the nation's richest woman and the Meriton property boss are among the wealthiest one per cent of Australians, who together own more than the bottom 70 per cent, an Oxfam report says.

The statistics, published in a global report titled An Economy for the 99 per cent, come as the world's political and business leaders gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke says the margin between the nation's rich and poor mirrors a worldwide trend.

"The scale of the global wealth inequality crisis is much, much greater than we had feared," Dr Szoke said on Monday.

Globally, the richest eight people - including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg - own as much as the poorest half of the world's population, or about 3.6 billion people.

"Collectively, the world's richest eight men have a net wealth of $US426 billion ($A568 billion)," Dr Szoke said.

"Such an extreme divide between the rich and the rest risks plunging future generations into political instability, undermining our democratic institutions and creating economic upheaval."

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Eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world's population, a level of inequality which "threatens to pull our societies apart", Oxfam said on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum opening in Davos.

Despite the world's wealthiest often being the most generous, Dr Szoke said having so much wealth in the hands of just eight people "highlights how broken our economic system really is".

She called for the federal government to introduce tougher laws that force large Australia-based multinational companies to publicly report incomes, employees, profits earned and taxes paid in every country of operation.

Dr Szoke said ending the "extreme concentration of wealth" in Australia was particularly important given the Centrelink debt recovery crackdown affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

WORLD'S RICHEST PEOPLE

* Bill Gates $US75b

* Amancio Ortega $US67b

* Warren Buffett $US60.8b

* Carlos Slim Helu $US50b

* Jeff Bezos $US45.2b

* Mark Zuckerberg $US44.6b

* Larry Ellison $US43.6b

* Michael Bloomberg $US40b

AUSTRALIA'S RICHEST

* Gina Rinehart ($US8.8b)

* Harry Trigguboff ($US7.3b)

(Source: Oxfam)