The world’s 10 richest men doubled their wealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion, according to a report published by Oxfam. In the meantime, 99 percent of the global population saw their incomes decrease during the pandemic while 160 million were pushed into poverty. “If these ten men were to lose 99.999 percent of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99 percent of all the people on this planet,” said Oxfam International’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher. “They now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people.”
Billionaires as a whole have added $5 trillion to their fortunes during the pandemic. The total wealth of billionaires rose from $8.6 trillion in March 2020 to $13.8 trillion in November 2021, the biggest increase in the last 14 years. Meanwhile, inequality contributes to the death of at least 21,000 people per day, according to Oxfam, which describes the number as a “conservative finding based on deaths globally from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger, and climate breakdown.” The Oxfam report was released ahead of this week’s virtual World Economic Forum meetings.
The charity is an advocate of increasing taxes on the wealthy and says a 99 percent windfall tax on the pandemic gains of the world’s 10 richest men would raise enough money to pay for vaccines around the world plus lots of other social services in more than 80 countries. And these ultra wealthy men wouldn’t have to suffer too much since they would still be $8 billion richer than they were before the pandemic.
There were some critics of the report who noted that Oxfam’s decision to start measuring from March 2020 may have skewed results slightly because stock markets fell sharply that month, meaning the growth came from a lower base, notes the BBC. Oxfam counters that if they were to use February 2020 as a base, the increase would still be more than 70 percent. That “would still represent a record breaking increase, and something the like of which we have never seen before,” Max Lawson, one of the report’s authors, said.