A report released by Oxfam has revealed that the wealth of the 10 richest men in the world more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.
The charity released its findings on global inequality ahead of the upcoming World Economic Forum, which is set to take place online this week for the second year running.
Using data from the Forbes Billionaires List and the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, which covers the distribution of global wealth going back to 2000, Oxfam compared the wealth of billionaires now to what they had in March 2020.
Using Forbes figures, Oxfam named the 10 richest men as SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffett.
At the start of the pandemic, the billionaires had a collective wealth of $700 billion, according to the charity.
Fast forward to November 2021, and the 10 richest people collectively grew their wealth by $821 billion to a total of approximately $1.5 trillion, while the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off because of the pandemic.
Oxfam notes there is significant variation between the wealth increase of the billionaires, with Musk’s fortune growing by more than 1,000% while Gates’ increased by 30%.
Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International’s Executive Director, drove the point home as she commented: ‘If these ten men were to lose 99.999% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on this planet. They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people.’
When considering deaths globally and taking into account access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger, and climate breakdown, Oxfam determined that this inequality is contributing to the death of ‘at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds.’
In spite of the economic pressures caused by the pandemic, the wealth of billionaires has risen more since the COVID-19 outbreak began than it has in the last 14 years.
Meanwhile, the strains of the pandemic are said to have caused women to lose a collective $800 billion in earnings in 2020, caused disparities in the number of deaths for racialised groups, and resulted in an expected rise in inequality between countries for the first time in a generation.
Bacher argued that the pace and scale of inequality is happening ‘by choice, not chance’, saying: ‘Not only have our economic structures made all of us less safe against this pandemic, they are actively enabling those who are already extremely rich and powerful to exploit this crisis for their own profit.’
Oxfam has noted that a one-off 99% tax on the ten richest men’s pandemic windfalls could cover the cost of enough vaccines for the entire world, universal healthcare and social protection, climate adaptation and reduction in gender-based violence in more than 80 countries, while still leaving them $8 billion richer than they were before the pandemic.
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