The income disparity between rich and poor is a worldwide risk.Reuters

The 85 richest people on earth have wealth equivalent to the combined holdings of half of the world's population, according to a report by Oxfam.

The report pointed out that 1% of world's families now own 46% of its wealth at present.

It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world's population - that's three and a half billion people - own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.
- Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam executive director

Oxfam said the wealth of half world's population is the same as that of group who could fit on a double-decker bus, as the influential richest people have "co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game".

The findings in Oxfam's Working For the Few report comes ahead of this week's World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

"It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world's population - that's three and a half billion people - own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus," Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam executive director said in a statement.

"In developed and developing countries alike we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children."

The rich people are also trying to change laws in their favour, according to Oxfam. They have successfully demanded financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates and cuts in public services for the majority.

The report also found the richest companies and people across the globe hide trillions of dollars away from tax authorities in a web of tax havens.

Oxfam polls conducted in the UK, Brazil, India, South Africa, Spain and US show that most people in the countries believe that laws are skewed in favour of the rich.

A polling in the UK found that two-thirds of Britons thought the rich had too much influence over the direction the country is headed. The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the OECD club of rich nations.

Worldwide Risk

The WEF has earlier identified widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the next 12-18 months. The forum noted that the problem is undermining social stability and "threatening security on a global scale".

Oxfam urged governments to take urgent action to tackle the issue. The charity also called on people attending the WEF to pledge to support progressive taxation and not to dodge their own taxes.

In addition, it asked them to refrain from using wealth to seek political favours and to disclose all their taxable investments.