The world’s 15th-richest man says inequality is keeping him awake at night

The 15th richest person in the world, self-made Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, just isn’t sleeping that soundly these days. Speaking to graduates at Shantou University in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong this weekend, Li said,

“I am 85 years old going on 86. I feel blessed to have seen more in life than I could remember, and happy to remember more than I have seen; so why am I sleepless in Hong Kong? I fear that widening inequality in wealth and opportunities, if left unaddressed could fast become ‘the new normal’.”

Inequality, both globally and within his own city of Hong Kong, has indeed become quite commonplace and is one reason why tens of thousands of residents in Hong Kong are preparing to demonstrate against the government on July 1st. In Hong Kong, about 1.3 million people, or one fifth of the population, are living below the poverty line, according to the government. The city’s gini coefficient, an indicator for wealth inequality where 0 represents total equality and 1 complete inequality, has been rising over the past four decades, ticking up especially since the former British colony’s return to China in 1997.

The gini coefficient was 0.537 in 2011, the highest rate since 1971:

Hong Kong income inequality
(Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Globally, more than two thirds of the world’s adults have less than $10,000 (pdf. p. 94) in assets—a tiny fraction, or 0.00003%, of Li’s net worth of $34.6 billion. If income inequality really does bother Li, he probably shouldn’t be sleeping at all.

global wealth pyramid
(Credit Suisse)
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