If you find it hard to grasp just how unequal the global economy is, here's one stat that should put it all in perspective: The richest 80 people on Earth are now as wealthy as the world's 3.5 billion poorest people. In other words, 80 people control as much wealth as half the population of the planet.
That's one of the most shocking findings from a report released Monday by Oxfam, an international charity dedicated to finding solutions to global poverty. The report's overall point is that global inequality is soaring to amazingly high levels as the world's richest just keep getting richer.
Here's the chart we think makes that point most clearly:
As you can see from the chart above, it hasn't always been this bad. In 2010, it took a slightly greater number of rich people -- 388 billionaires, to be exact -- to equal the collective wealth of the world's poorest 50 percent.
The report also found that by next year, the richest 1 percent of earners will control more than half of the world's total wealth.
These are the kinds of scary statistics that the economist Thomas Piketty warns against in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, his 700-page volume that was published in French in 2013 and in English last year. Piketty uses centuries of data to show how returns on capital tend to grow faster than the economy. This is a problem because capital is generally concentrated in the wealthiest of households, meaning the rich are getting richer much more rapidly than the rest of us.
As a solution, Piketty has called for a global wealth tax.
Oxfam describes a couple other possible ways to rein in wealth inequality, like promoting pay equality for women, paying workers a living wage and closing tax loopholes that benefit big corporations.