Billionaires’ Wealth Rises To $10.2 Trillion Amid Coronavirus Crisis
Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, the world’s billionaires have seen their fortunes skyrocket to $10.2 trillion.
Earlier findings from the the Institute for Policy Studies’ Billionaire Bonanza report found that the United States’ 645 wealthiest people, such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, amassed $845 billion since the pandemic took full grip in March.
It’s been a common thread of the past seven months; the poorest have been hit hard by unemployment, with the UK and New Zealand both recently entering a recession, while the richest increase their riches. Combined, they’re worth trillions of dollars.
As per The Guardian, a new report by Swiss bank UBS provided some eye-watering results. Between April and July – arguably the peak of the pandemic, where people were struggling most under government schemes and redundancies – billionaires increased their wealth by 27.5%. There’s also more billionaires across the world, up from 2,158 in 2017 to 2,189 today.
UBS explained that while the stock markets endured a slump, the world’s rich list betted on it rebounding which, in turn, catapulted their fortunes. By having ‘the stomach’ to buy shares when markets were crashing, their wealth has hit ‘a new high’, surpassing the previous peak of $8.9 trillion in 2017.
Josef Stadler, head of UBS’s global family office department, said the world’s richest people have a ‘significant risk appetite’, adding: ‘Billionaires did extremely well during the COVID-19 crisis, not only [did] they ride the storm to the downside, but also gained up on the upside.’
At the top of Bloomberg‘s Billionaires Index is Amazon chief Bezos with a fortune of $183 billion, enjoying an increase of $68.4 billion this year alone thanks to the uptick in stay-at-home ecommerce.
Second is Gates with $123 billion, with Musk in third with $101 billion. The Tesla CEO’s road to centibillionaire status has been a little bumpy, with his fortune briefly taking a huge fall of $16,3 billion before recovering shortly after.
Luke Hilyard, executive director of excessive pay thinktank High Pay Centre, described ‘extreme wealth concentration’ as ‘an ugly phenomenon from a moral perspective, but it’s also economically and socially destructive’.
Billionaire wealth equates to a fortune almost impossible to spend over multiple lifetimes of absolute luxury. Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they’ve achieved.
Hilyard added the UBS report indicates ‘capitalism isn’t working as it should’. At some point in the future, Stadler warned the polarity between rich and poor could lead to a political and public uprising. ‘Is there a risk they may be singled out by society? Yes. Are they aware of it? Yes,’ he said.
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CreditsThe Guardian and 2 others
Institute for Policy Studies