Anti-poverty charity Oxfam reports that the wealthiest 1 percent will own more than the combined wealth of the other 99 percent of the world by 2016 (1).
This is no exaggeration considering that in 2014 they owned 48 percent of the world’s wealth, according to Wealth: Having It All And Wanting More (2), a research paper published by Oxfam. This means they will shortly own more than 50 percent.
In 2014, Oxfam reported that “85 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.” (2)
This means that a handful of people possess the corresponding combined wealth of the poorest people in the world, all 3.5 billion of them (3).
To gain entry in the One Percent Club, an aspiring member would have to have a net worth of over half a million pounds, or roughly over $753,000 (3).
Dangerous Wealth Gap
Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said global inequality is “simply staggering” and addressed governments with a seven-point plan to fight poverty by suppressing tax evasion and ensuring a decent wage for all workers (3).
Meanwhile, 1 in 9 people still don’t have enough to eat. How much longer can this situation go on? Johann Rupert, chairman of one of the world’s biggest luxury conglomerates, a total of 20 brands that include Cartier, Piaget, Vachern Constantin, Chloe, and Montblanc, believes we are on the brink of social unrest.
Rupert believes the tension between the two opposing classes, the rich and the poor, is bound to escalate with the imminent disappearance of the middle class, as robotics and artificial intelligence will lead to mass unemployment (4).
How is society going to cope with the structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and social warfare?”, Rupert asked his fellow billionaires at the 2015 Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in Monaco (5).
Ironically enough, one in three of the population in Monaco are millionaires, according to a 2014 report from WealthInsight (6).
Cartier loyal customer Jay-Z said “the gap between have and have-nots is getting wider and wider” during a 2013 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher (7).
Will the Poor Overthrow the Rich?
Johann Rupert held a troubling speech at the summit in Monaco, showing great concern in the alarming disappearance of the middle class, mostly due to robotics and artificial intelligence.
He stated the phenomenon “puts hundreds of millions of people out of work,” adding that “we are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.” (4)
It is thought that advances in technology will lead to severe job losses, which will eventually lead to social uprising, a prospect the business tycoon admitted keeps him awake at night.
Such an uprising will clearly threaten the luxury goods business. Selling luxury goods will become a tricky business as the rich will try to conceal their wealth from the accusatory masses.
We are in for a huge change in society . Get used to it, and be prepared. Hopefully we will survive it, because we’re planning for it,” Rupert said at the Monaco summit (4).
Rupert the Bear
According to Forbes, Johann Rupert has an estimated net worth of $7.3 billion as of May 2015 (8). Chairman of Swiss luxury goods company Richemont SA, he is also the owner of the Franschoek Motor Museum in South Africa, the home of his personal collection of over 200 unique cars (9).
He is obviously one of the 1% and is not directly affected by the disappearance of the middle class, yet he did declare that “We cannot have 0.1 percent of 0.1 percent taking all the spoils. It’s unfair and it is not sustainable” during his speech in Monaco (4).
It was not the first time Johann Rupert made social critiques. Nicknamed “Rupert the Bear” for his pessimistic views, he even refers to himself as a “reformed prostitute.” (4)
After all, he did spend a decade as an investment banker. In 2008, the South African declared that collateral damage from the financial crisis was bound to come. It now seems closer than ever.
Rupert returned to his chairman role in 2014 after a sabbatical year he spent reading and fly fishing (10). Apparently, his time was well-spent contemplating a social revolution.
References & Image Credits:
(2) Wealth Having it All and Wanting More
(6) Wealth Insight
(8) The Richest
(9) Buzz South Africa
(11) Johann Rupert
(12) Cartier Paris
(13) Jay Z