Two New Zealand men own more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of the adult population, according to new research to be released today by Oxfam.
The research also reveals that the richest one per cent have 20 per cent of the wealth in New Zealand, while 90 per cent of the population owns less than half of the nation’s wealth.
The research forms part of a global report released to coincide with this week’s annual meeting of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay is expected to attend the gathering, which focuses on global politics, economics and social issues.
The full report, called "An economy for the 99 per cent" will be released at 1pm this afternoon [Monday], will reveal startling global figures and show that the gap between rich and poor is greater than previously thought. It will also reveal how globally big business and the extremely wealthy are fuelling the inequality crisis by avoiding taxes, driving down wages for their workers and the prices paid to producers, and investing less in their business, say Oxfam.
Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, said: “We were shocked to discover the level of wealth inequality in our country.
“The gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us is greater than we thought, both in New Zealand and around the world. It is trapping huge numbers of people in poverty and fracturing our societies, as seen in New Zealand in the changing profile of home ownership.
“It is an issue of massive national and global importance which must surely shape the promises of our politicians in this election year.
“New Zealanders love fairness, not inequality. The Government should be tackling inequality here and globally, by cracking down on tax avoidance wherever it is, and using that money to make our country, and the global economy, a fairer place. This wouldn’t just be the right thing to do, a more fair economy would also be simple common sense and enormously popular with New Zealanders.”
The Oxfam research highlights the gap between the wealth of individuals, as opposed to disposable income.
The two richest New Zealanders are Graeme Hart and Richard Chandler. They own wealth of US$6.4billion and US$2.7billion respectively. Last year Singapore-based Chandler was named as using Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers tax avoidance controversy.
The number of the wealthiest New Zealanders leaped by almost 20 per cent between October 2015 and June 2016, from 212 people worth more than NZ$50million to 252, according to the Inland Revenue’s high-wealth individuals unit. Over a third of the 252 extremely wealthy declared income of less than NZ$70,000 in 2015. NZ$70,000 is the point where the top tax rate kicks in. The 252 are linked to over 7,500 entities. A number of these entities were reported last year to be in dispute with the IRD over nearly $111million in tax.
Oxfam’s 2017 report is the most recent in a series of reports that has analysed economic inequality and its drivers. Each of these reports was published to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Each year the report has included an analysis of wealth inequality which draws on data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook and the Forbes list of billionaires. This Credit Suisse databook is produced annually and is widely recognized as providing the best available data on global wealth.