Oxfam International has released the report ‘Public Good or Private Wealth’ in the lead up to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The study finds that the wealth and gender gaps are undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling discontent across the globe. It considers that governments play a role by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under-taxing corporations and wealth, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging, on the other.

The report makes a series of recommendations focused on universal public services, like education and health, as powerful instruments to tackle poverty and reduce inequality.


  • Just four cents in every dollar of tax revenue collected globally came from taxes on wealth such as inheritance or property in 2015. These types of tax have been reduced or eliminated in many rich countries and are barely implemented in the developing world.
  • Tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62% in 1970 to just 38% in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28%. In some countries, such as Brazil, the poorest 10% of society are now paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the richest 10%.
  • Public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies. Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare.
  • Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men, who own 50% more wealth than women globally, and control over 86% of corporations. Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most. Girls are pulled out of school first when the money is not available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail.
  • Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion.


The report calls for governments to listen to ordinary citizens and take meaningful action to reduce inequality. All governments should set concrete, timebound targets and action plans to reduce inequality as part of their commitments under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 on inequality. These plans should include action in the following three areas:

  1. Deliver universal free health care, education and other public services that also work for women and girls.
  2. Free up women’s time by easing the millions of unpaid hours they spend every day caring for their families and homes.
  3. End the under-taxation of rich individuals and corporations.

(Source: Media release | Read the report)

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