GLOBAL dividend payments to shareholders grew an average of 14 times faster than worker pay across 31 countries, which together account for 81 per cent of global GDP, over the last three years, analysis from Oxfam reveals. In the UK, accounting for inflation, dividends increased by 13 per cent between 2020-2023, while average wages remained stagnant.

This is the latest evidence that the gap between the super-rich and the rest continues to grow. Oxfam analysis from earlier this year found that if current trends continue, the world would see its first trillionaire within a decade.

Global annual corporate dividends are on course to beat an all-time high of $1.66 trillion reached last year, according to the Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index, which covers the world’s largest 1,200 corporations, representing 90 per cent of global dividends paid. Data for both dividends and wages for 2020-2023 are available for 31 countries, and Oxfam’s research shows:

  • After adjusting for inflation, global dividend payouts climbed by 45 per cent ($195 billion) in 31 countries between 2020 and 2023, while wages grew by just three per cent.
  • Excluding China, which accounts for most of this wage growth, global real wages in these countries fell by three per cent during this period.

Using data from Wealth-X, Oxfam estimates that the richest one per cent, pocketed an average of $9,000 in dividends in 2023. This is equivalent to eight months’ wages for the average worker.

Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International interim Executive Director said “Corporate profits and payouts to rich shareholders have gone into the stratosphere, while wages continue to go nowhere. Millions of people hold jobs that trap them in a cycle of working hard while still unable to afford enough food, medicine or other basics, amassing greater fortunes for the super-rich who profit from their work.”

Oxfam’s analysis of Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC) data from countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, found that:

  • Only two out of 37 countries have a minimum wage above the living wage – the pay rate the GLWC estimates allows workers to meet basic needs, such as housing, food, healthcare, clothing and transportation. Minimum wages on average provide just 38 per cent of the wage needed for a living wage.
  • Bangladesh’s minimum wage provides a mere six per cent of a living wage, and in Ghana it provides just 12 per cent.

These findings reinforce warnings by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), of rising numbers of working people living in poverty – skipping meals, getting into debt, and going without the basics. Using ILO data on in-work poverty, Oxfam found that:

  • Nearly one in five workers globally earns a wage below the $3.65 poverty line.
  • 66 per cent of workers in low-income countries earn poverty wages – a level of pay that doesn’t clear the $3.65 poverty line. This is a one per cent increase since 2020, which marked the reversal of a long-term decline.
  • Afghanistan (22 per cent) and Sri Lanka (nine per cent) have seen some of the largest increases of in-work poverty at the $6.85 poverty line

Behar said: “No corporation should be shelling out to rich shareholders unless it’s paying a living wage to all its workers. Governments must cap payouts to shareholders, support trade unions and legislate for living wages. We should be rewarding work, not wealth.”

* Source: Oxfam GB