Ten billionaires made enough money since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to vaccinate the entire world’s population by themselves.
The 1,000 richest people on Earth also recouped all of their pandemic-related financial losses within the first nine months of the lockdown. Conversely, it could be more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the virus’ economic impacts.
The findings are according to a new report from Oxfam Canada, which says the pandemic has the potential to increase economic inequality in “almost every country at once,” something that’s never been done since the charitable organization’s records began over a century ago.
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The rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000. Oxfam points out that the majority of the world’s wealthiest people are “mostly white males.”
In Canada, the fortunes of the country’s 44 billionaires increased by nearly $63.5 billion since March 2020. Oxfam says it estimates the richest people’s wealth in the country would be enough to give every one of the 3.8 million poorest people in Canada a cheque for $16,823.
“We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began,” said Diana Sarosi, director of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada. “The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus.”
The time it takes for billionaires to fly out from New York to the Swiss Alps, nearly 200K people will have been forced into poverty by #COVID19.
It doesn’t have to be this way. End extreme wealth. 🙅🏿♀️
— Oxfam Canada (@oxfamcanada) January 25, 2021
Oxfam says the report shows a “rigged economic system” that is enabling a “super-rich elite” class to amass wealth in the world’s worst recession since the Great Depression while billions of people struggle to make ends meet. “It reveals how the pandemic is deepening long-standing economic, racial and gender divides,” says Oxfam.
According to the press release, the world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began – more than enough to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet while ensuring no one is pushed into poverty by COVID-19 ramifications. At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work.
The 32 global corporations that gained the most money throughout the pandemic could have used those profits ($104 billion) to provide unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low- and middle-income countries across the globe.
At the beginning of January, Tesla founder Elon Musk overtook Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk’s net worth is US $202 billion, with Bezos in second at US$193 billion, followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates at US $133 billion.
“The fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts. This needs to be a global effort by governments to ensure everyone has access to a COVID-19 vaccine; financial support if they lose their job; investing in public services as well as low carbon sectors to create millions of new jobs,” concluded Sarosi.