The richest 1 percent of the population will own more than half the world's wealth by 2016, Oxfam International said in a report released as the World Economic Forum begins in Davos, Switzerland.
Oxfam said the world's richest people saw their share of global wealth jump to 48 percent last year from 44 percent in 2009. Rising inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty as the world's biggest companies lobby the US and European Union for beneficial tax changes at a time when average taxpayers are still paying the bill for the financial crisis, Oxfam said.
"Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined?" Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's executive director, said in a statement. "The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering, and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast."
While world leaders such as President Barack Obama and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have talked about tackling extreme economic inequality "we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk," Byanyima said.
The healthcare and financial services industries spent almost $900 million to lobby the US government for favorable legislation in 2013, and more than $200 million was spent on lobbying in the EU, Oxfam said.
At the same time, one in nine people don't have enough to eat and more than a billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, Oxfam said, ticking off statistics that paint a grim picture for all but the world's richest.
The charity is calling for a crackdown on tax avoidance by corporations and rich people, as well as increased investment in health and education and equal pay legislation.