Oxfam warns G20 of dangers of rising inequality
The world's biggest economies must tackle rising inequality, aid agency Oxfam warns (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

The world's biggest economies must tackle rising inequality, aid agency Oxfam warned Tuesday, saying ignoring the issue would leave millions trapped in poverty and risk economic growth.

In a report ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Oxfam said the wealth of G20 nations had risen by US$17 trillion since December but the richest one percent of people took more than one-third of this with US$6.2 trillion.

"The widening gap between rich and poor is increasing... so inequality is becoming more pronounced," Oxfam Australia chief Helen Szoke told AFP.

"Inequality in and of itself is problematic for those people who are left behind but we also know that you can't actually achieve growth unless you address this issue of inequality."

Oxfam is calling for the issue to be acknowledged as a serious global problem at the G20 leaders summit on Saturday and Sunday, which brings together the heads of the world's 20 biggest economies.

Led by Australia, G20 nations have pledged to raise the level of their combined output by at least two percent above the currently projected level in the next five years, in hopes of creating millions of jobs and prodding stalling economies.

But Szoke said while the grouping was committed to growing GDP, any focus on inclusive growth, which brings benefits to the community more broadly, had been lost.

She said Oxfam supported the G20's push for global tax reform and efforts to crack down on tax-dodging by multinational corporations, which the report said cost poor countries US$100 billion each year.

But Szoke said the issue of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa also needed to be addressed, warning that it could have knock-on economic impacts.

"The G20 cannot ignore Ebola because Ebola is the symbol of what happens when there is stark social and economic inequality where you don't have the social protections and public infrastructure to deal with what is a containable disease," she said.

"When Ebola has occurred in other countries like Uganda it has been able to be contained."

Szoke said Oxfam also hoped that the G20 would produce an expansive commitment to women's rights that goes "beyond just getting women into work which is where it seems to be sitting at the moment".