The face-melting truth about global wealth disparity today

What do Canada's economy, the world's poorest 3.6 billion people, and the world's richest 62 people all have in common?

They're each worth about $1.7 trillion.

Included in a recent report by Oxfam, these jaw-dropping statistics present us with an updated picture of not just how much of a chasm exists between the world's haves and have-nots, but also between the world's reality and our perception of it.

We're all aware that there's poverty in the world, and that there are rich people, and that there's the much-discussed “middle-class,” to which most people reading this article belong. But when we bring data into the equation, and begin wondering about the empirical scale of the big picture, our notions of the situation at hand aren't just removed from how things really are, they're not even in the ballpark.

That's because the world's richest 2% are now wealthier than the rest of humanity combined. It can actually be difficult for this to sink in until you see a visual representation of it, so check out this video, courtesy of the people at In fact, that video was made back in 2013, when, as it shows, the world's richest 300 people were as wealthy as the bottom 3 billion human beings put together. The fact that things have become much worse even in just the past three years gives an indication of how quickly the imbalance is spiraling out of control.

You might be saying to yourself “Ok, I get that things are bad in other countries and in the world at large, but at least in Canada we're pretty egalitarian, right?”

Well, yes and no. It's true that disparity is worst on a global level, and that in many other countries it's horrendous. In the United States in 2013, 75% of the country's wealth rested in the hands of the top 10% of families, and over 35% went to the top 1%, while the poorest half of American families were left with only 1.1% collectively. But even in Canada, where disparity is relatively tame compared to the rest of the world, in 2012 the bottom 50% of families collectively owned just 5.6% of our country's wealth, while the top 10% owned nearly half.i That's not exactly something to be proud of.

In another article I'll address some criticisms of Oxfam's numbers, and explain why those criticisms don't change the fact that massive wealth disparity is very bad for several reasons, both politically and economically.

i Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2015.

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