THE richest 1 per cent of people in the world now own half of the planet's wealth, according to a new report that highlights breathtaking levels of global inequality.
The study reveals how the super rich have profited from the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, seeing their proportion of the world's wealth increase from 42.5 per cent in the middle of the crisis to 50.1 per cent now.
According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the top 1 per cent are worth a total of $182trillion - about eight times more than the US economy.
The wealthiest 10 per cent of people, meanwhile, own 87.8 per cent of global wealth.
"The downward trend reversed after 2008 and the share of the top 1 per cent has been on an upward path ever since, passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the report says.
The gaping inequality has resulted in a huge rise in the number of millionaires and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (those worth more than $40 million).
Since 2000, the number of millionaires in the world has risen 170 per cent, to 36 million, and the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals has increased five times over.
The UK has the third highest number of millionaires - 6 per cent of the total.
"Increasing inequality can boost the speed at which new millionaires are created,” the report states.
At the other extreme, the poorest half of Earth's population - 3.5 billion people - own just 2.7 per cent of global wealth.
Global wealth grew faster in the past year than at any time since 2010, reaching a total of $367trillion.
Charities said the findings highlighted the need for action from political leaders both in the UK and internationally.
Oxfam's head of advocacy, Katy Chakrabortty, urged governments to act.
"The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality - tax-dodging by rich individuals and multinationals,” she said.
"Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.”
The study also found that millennials faced a significant disadvantage compared to older generations.
Introducing the report, Urs Rohner, chairman of Credit Suisse, said: "Those with low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups, who have had little chance to accumulate assets, but we find that millennials face particularly challenging circumstances compared with other generations.”