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The Oxfam Report is Important, But There’s More to the Story

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The Oxfam Report is Important, But There's More to the Story

The Oxfam Report is Important, But There’s More to the Story

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Prior to the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam International made waves with its latest report on global inequality. In particular, one “shock value” finding made headlines: eight men now combine to have the same wealth as half of the world’s population, or 3.6 billion people.

Today’s chart breaks down who these men are and how much they own in terms of assets. But, it also serves as a springboard to dive into a few other thoughts on the Oxfam report, inequality, philanthropy, and eradicating poverty.

The Giving Pledge

When I saw the headline from the Oxfam report, one of my first thoughts was: how many of these billionaires have signed The Giving Pledge?

The Giving Pledge was launched in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. It’s stated goal is to “help address society’s most pressing problems” by inviting “the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy”. So far, it’s been signed by 139 individuals with commitments of $732 billion.

Of the eight people at the top of the wealth pyramid, the majority has signed The Giving Pledge including: Bill Gates (co-founder), Warren Buffett (co-founder), Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg.

Three of the eight billionaires haven’t signed the pledge. Jeff Bezos is included in that mix, and he has faced some criticism over the fact. The other two that have not signed yet are Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega and Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helú.

At the end of the day, signing the Giving Pledge is not yet equivalent to “walking the walk” in helping to solve pressing problems like poverty or inequality. However, people like Gates and Buffett have already made a huge difference to charitable causes.

Here’s what Warren Buffett recently said about his fortune:

In my entire lifetime, everything that I’ve spent will be quite a bit less than 1 percent of everything I make. The other 99 percent plus will go to others because it has no utility to me. So it’s silly for me to not transfer that utility to people who can use it.

Buffett is one of the world’s best investors – and if he continues to invest his money wisely into philanthropy, the result will likely be something that even Oxfam can be proud of.

The Poor Are Actually Getting Richer

While the sensational fact that headlined the Oxfam report is certainly alarming and important, it also misses some noteworthy context.

People in many of the world’s poorest nations aren’t getting poorer – they are actually getting much richer. The number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990.

Here’s another way to show it – and perhaps this is where the emotional pain points arise:

Courtesy of: Harvard Business Review, h/t Ian Bremmer

The poorest and richest cohorts of the global population, along with the Asian middle class, all got much richer over the last two decades.

The American middle class, however, was not so lucky. Median income for 81% of U.S. counties actually peaked back in 1999, and other Western countries are facing similar inequality challenges.

One Last Chart

The final chart here is courtesy of Swedish author and historian Johan Norberg, who wrote a sarcastic response to the Oxfam report:

Oxfam and many others are rightly concerned about inequality. But, for the people that need it most, things continue to get better. Such a narrative is not sexy enough for a click-driven media that thrives on sensational or emotional soundbites.

For more information about the metrics that are continuing to improve, see this post by Peter Diamandis, or this one in Reason.

Here’s one final quote from Norberg worth considering:

Part of our problem is one of success. As we get richer, our tolerance for global poverty diminishes. So we get angrier about injustices. Charities quite rightly wish to raise funds, so they draw our attention to the plight of the world’s poorest. But since the Cold War ended, extreme poverty has decreased from 37 per cent to 9.6 per cent — in single digits for the first time in history.

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Chart of the Week

The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology

See how 5G compares to older iterations of wireless technology, and why it’s poised to change the way the modern world uses data.

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The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology

Wireless technology has evolved rapidly since the turn of the century. From voice-only 2G capabilities and internet-enabled 3G, today’s ecosystem of wireless activity is founded on the reliable connection of 4G.

Fifth-generation wireless network technology, better known as 5G, is now being rolled out in major cities worldwide. By 2024, an estimated 1.5 billion mobile users─which account for 40% of current global activity─will be using 5G wireless networks.

Today’s chart highlights three generations of wireless technology in the 21st century, and the differences between 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.

5G: The Next Great Thing?

With over 5 billion mobile users worldwide, our world is growing more connected than ever.

Data from GSMA Intelligence shows how rapidly global traffic could grow across different networks:

  • 2018: 43% of mobile users on 4G
  • 2025: 59% of mobile users on 4G, 15% of mobile users on 5G

But as with any new innovation, consumers should expect both positives and negatives as the technology matures.

Benefits

  • IoT Connectivity
    5G networks will significantly optimize communication between the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to make our lives more convenient.

  • Low latency
    Also known as lag, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred over networks. Users may see latency rates drop as low as one millisecond.
  • High speeds
    Real-time streaming may soon be a reality through 5G networks. Downloading a two-hour movie takes a whopping 26 hours over 3G networks and roughly six minutes on 4G networks─however, it’ll only take 3.6 seconds over 5G.

Drawbacks

  • Distance from nodes
    Walls, trees, and even rain can significantly block 5G wireless signals.
  • Requires many nodes
    Many 5G nodes will need to be installed to offer the same level of coverage found on 4G.
  • Restricted to 5G-enabled devices
    Users can’t simply upgrade their software. Instead, they will need a 5G-enabled device to access the network.

Global 5G Networks

5G still has a way to go before it reaches mainstream adoption. Meanwhile, countries and cities are racing to install the infrastructure needed for the next wave of innovation to hit.

Since late 2018, over 25 countries have deployed 5G wireless networks. Notable achievements include South Korea, which became the first country globally to launch 5G wireless technology in April 2019. Switzerland boasts the highest number of 5G network deployments, currently at 225 and counting.

To date, China has built roughly 350,000 5G sites─compared to the less than 20,000 in the U.S.─and plans to invest an additional US$400 billion in infrastructure by 2023. Chinese mobile providers plan to launch 5G services starting in 2020.

What Does This Mean For 4G?

4G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As 5G gradually rolls out, 4G and 5G networks will need to work together to support the wave of IoT devices entering the market. This network piggybacking also has the potential to expand global access to the internet in the future.

The race to dominate the wireless waves is even pushing companies like China’s Huawei to explore 6G wireless innovation─before they’ve even launched their 5G networks.

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Chart of the Week

Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?

How do the rankings of the world’s most affluent countries change when using different metrics to measure wealth per capita?

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Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?

Our animated chart this week uses data from the ninth Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, which ranks countries by average wealth, calculated as gross assets per adult citizen.

While using such a metric certainly gives a quick snapshot of wealth per capita, it doesn’t necessarily show the complete picture.

Some argue, for example, that calculating the mean doesn’t factor in the gap between the richest and poorest in a population—also known as wealth inequality. For this reason, we’ve compared this number to median wealth for each country, providing a separate angle on which countries really have the most wealth per capita.

Mean or Median: Which Makes More Sense?

Below, we’ve visualized a hypothetical example of two groups of people, each earning various sums of money, to show how average (mean) and median calculations make a difference.

Mean vs Median Comparison

What can we observe in both datasets?

  • Total wealth: $2,000
  • Total people: 15 people
  • Average wealth: $2,000 ÷ 15 = $133

However, that’s where the similarities end. In the first group, wealth is distributed more evenly, with the disparity between the lowest-paid and highest-paid being $300. The median wealth for this group reaches $100, which is close to the average value. In the second group, this gap climbs to $495, and the median wealth drops sharply to only $30.

Scaling up this example to the true wealth of nations, we can see how the median wealth provides a more accurate picture of the typical adult, especially in societies that are less equal.

Let’s see how this shakes out when ranking the world’s most affluent countries.

Ranking Top Contenders on Wealth per Capita

When it comes to wealth per capita, it’s clear that Australia and Switzerland lead the pack. In fact, the data shows that both nations top the lists for both mean and median wealth.

However, both nations also have the highest absolute household debt-to-GDP ratios in the world: in 2018, Switzerland’s levels reached nearly 129%, while Australia followed behind at 120%.

Here is a full ranking of the top 20 countries by mean and median wealth:

RankCountryMean wealth per adultCountryMedian wealth per adult
#1🇨🇭 Switzerland$530,244🇦🇺 Australia$191,453
#2🇦🇺 Australia$411,060🇨🇭 Switzerland$183,339
#3🇺🇸 United States$403,974🇧🇪 Belgium$163,429
#4🇧🇪 Belgium$313,045🇳🇱 Netherlands$114,935
#5🇳🇴 Norway$291,103🇫🇷 France$106,827
#6🇳🇿 New Zealand$289,798🇨🇦 Canada$106,342
#7🇨🇦 Canada$288,263🇯🇵 Japan$103,861
#8🇩🇰 Denmark$286,712🇳🇿 New Zealand$98,613
#9🇸🇬 Singapore$283,118🇬🇧 United Kingdom$97,169
#10🇫🇷 France$280,580🇸🇬 Singapore$91,656
#11🇬🇧 United Kingdom$279,048🇪🇸 Spain$87,188
#12🇳🇱 Netherlands$253,205🇳🇴 Norway$80,054
#13🇸🇪 Sweden$249,765🇮🇹 Italy$79,239
#14🇭🇰 Hong Kong$244,672🇹🇼 Taiwan$78,177
#15🇮🇪 Ireland$232,952🇮🇪 Ireland$72,473
#16🇦🇹 Austria$231,368🇦🇹 Austria$70,074
#17🇯🇵 Japan$227,235🇰🇷 South Korea$65,463
#18🇮🇹 Italy$217,727🇺🇸 United States$61,667
#19🇩🇪 Germany$214,893🇩🇰 Denmark$60,999
#20🇹🇼 Taiwan$212,375🇭🇰 Hong Kong$58,905

The United States boasts 41% of the world’s millionaires, but it’s clear that the fruits of labor are enjoyed by only a select group—average wealth ($403,974) is almost seven times higher than median wealth ($61,667). This growing inequality gap knocks the country down to 18th place for median wealth.

The Nordic countries of Norway and Denmark can be found in the top ten for average wealth, but they drop to 12th place ($80,054) and 19th place ($60,999) respectively for median wealth. Despite this difference, these countries also provide a strong safety net—including access to healthcare and education—to more vulnerable citizens.

Finally, wealth in Japan is fairly evenly distributed among its large middle class, which lands it in seventh place on the median wealth list at $103,861. One possible reason is that the pay gap ratio between Japanese CEOs and the average worker is much lower than other developed nations.

With reducing income inequality as a priority for many countries around the world, how might this list change in coming years?

Footnote: All data estimates are using mid-2018 values, and reflected in US$.

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