The 20 richest Spaniards hold as much wealth as the poorest 30%, says new Oxfam report

Spain among EU nations that have seen the biggest rise in inequality since start of crisis

Oxfam Intermón has once again put figures on one of the most pressing economic and social problems of the 21st century: inequality. Last year the 20 richest people in Spain together amassed a total fortune of €115.1 billion – the same amount as the country’s poorest 30% combined, according to the NGO’s study An Economy For the 1%. The report also took a look at the global picture and found that the 62 richest people in the world have the same total wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion, a proportion that Oxfam describes as “intolerable.”

Two homeless men on the street in Madrid.
Two homeless men on the street in Madrid.Susana Vera (Reuters)

The size of Spain’s biggest fortunes has increased by 15% in the past year, while the wealth of the remaining 99% has fallen 15% in the same period, the survey found.

According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, Spain is among the European countries that have seen the biggest rises in inequality since the start of the economic crisis – almost 10 times the EU average. It sits only behind Portugal, Italy and Greece in terms of inequality among European nations, according to Oxfam.

Spain sits only behind Portugal, Italy and Greece in terms of inequality in European countries, Oxfam says

The poorest households have continued to lose purchasing power as a result of “ever more regressive” salaries and fiscal models, it found: “Over the last 15 years, the 30% of the population who live in a situation of risk and exclusion have seen their net assets rise barely 3% while those of the richest 10% have shot up 56%.”

Spain continues to have one of the lowest effective tax burdens in Europe – 8.2 points below the euro-zone average – with 85% of the effort falling upon families, according to the study. Nine out of every 10 euros collected comes out of the pockets of workers, while less than one euro comes from capital gains.

More information
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“The fiscal gap in Spain explains in large part why we collect much less that we ought to, why we collect little from those who have more, why we collect and barely redistribute, and why we have one of the highest levels of tax evasion and avoidance among our European neighbors,” Oxfam notes.

“The flight of resources into tax havens plays a key role in the growth of inequality,” says the Oxfam report, adding that multinationals and the economic elite play by a different set of rules from the rest, exploiting every possible niche to avoid paying what is fair.

“The fact that 188 of the 201 biggest companies have a presence in at least one tax haven is a clear indicator that it is now time to act,” adds Jaime Atienza, chief of Oxfam’s campaign and citizenship department

According to the charity, 82% of Spaniards believe regulatory bodies need to be strengthened, while 70% think that fiscal engineering carried out by large transnational firms deprives access to education and healthcare in developing countries.

English version by Nick Funnell.

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