The yacht of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovitch, the Eclipse, is seen on Sept. 4, 2013 near the Nice harbor in the French riviera. The Eclipse is the world's second largest private yacht.Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
The world's elite have rigged laws in their own favor, undermining democracy and creating a chasm of inequality across the globe, international organization Oxfam said in advance of the annual get-together of the world's most powerful in Davos, Switzerland.
Inequality has run so out of control, that the 85 richest people on the planet are worth nearly as much as the poorest 50 percent of the world's population, Oxfam said in a new report on widening disparities between the rich and poor.
The report exposes the "pernicious impact" of growing inequality that helps "the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else," the statement said.
Inequality has emerged as a major concern in countries around the world, with President Barack Obama prioritizing a push to narrow the wealth gap in his second term.
But the wealth gap in America is still growing. And the problem seems likely to worsen as the International Labor Organization, the U.N. labor agency, reported (PDF) Monday that 201.8 million people around the world were unemployed in 2013 — an increase of 4.9 million from the previous year.
In China, the new government there has cracked down on perks and privileges of the elite, and Germany seems set to adopt a new minimum wage.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), which organizes the Davos conference, warned last week that the growing gulf between the rich and the poor represents the biggest global risk in 2014.
"The chronic gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest citizens is seen as the risk that is most likely to cause serious damage globally in the coming decade," the WEF said.
But many of the corporate giants and world leaders set to confer at Davos, a posh ski resort tucked on the eastern reaches of Switzerland near Liechtenstein, are implicitly pointed at by Oxfam.
Correction: Due to an editing error, the original version of this article stated that the 85 richest people in the world control half the world's wealth. The Oxfam report actually found that the 85 richest people have about the same wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the global population.