The WEF’s report said rising income and wealth disparity was the biggest risk to the global economy.
Income gap was behind Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory, says World Economic Forum risk report
Larry Elliott Economics editor
Rising income inequality and the polarisation of societies pose a risk to the global economy in 2017 unless urgent action is taken, according to the World Economic Forum.
Before its annual meeting in Davos next week, the WEF said the gap between rich and poor had been behind the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election victory and needed to be tackled urgently.
The WEF’s annual global risks report – culled from 700 experts – found that rising income and wealth disparity and increasing polarisation of societies were ranked first and third among the underlying trends that will determine the shape of the world in the next decade.
Related: WEF outlines global economic risks as Trump and Brexit loom – business live
Climate change was considered the second most important underlying trend.
The WEF said that for more than a decade it had been pointing out the dangers of rising inequality and political polarisation. It added that the trends had come into “sharp focus” in 2016 with rising discontent and disaffection evident.
It noted that the highest profile signs of disruption had come in the UK with the vote to leave the EU in June and in Trump’s victory in the race for the White House last November.
“Urgent action is needed among leaders to identify ways to overcome political or ideological differences and work together to solve critical challenges,” said Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, head of global competitiveness and risks at the WEF.
“The momentum of 2016 towards addressing climate change shows this is possible and offers hope that collective action at the international level aimed at resetting other risks could also be achieved.”
The report warned that society was not keeping pace with technological change. It found that of 12 emerging technologies artificial intelligence and robotics had the greatest potential benefits but also contained the greatest negative threats