The Covid-19 pandemic has been good for the wallets of the rich. Some 573 people have joined the group of billionaires since 2020, bringing the world total to 2,668, according to an analysis released by Oxfam on Sunday. That means a new billionaire has been minted every 30 hours on average so far during the pandemic.
The report, which is based on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise in inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the world’s wealthiest people and leaders.
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Billionaires have seen their total net worth soar by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. Much of the increase was driven by strong gains in stock markets, which were aided by governments pumping cash into the global economy to soften the financial blow of the coronavirus.
Much of the jump in wealth came in the first year of the pandemic. It then leveled off and has since dropped a bit, said Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of inequality policy.
At the same time, Covid-19, rising inequality and rising food prices could push up to 263 million people into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of progress, Oxfam said in a report released last month.
“I’ve never seen such a dramatic increase in poverty and wealth at the same time in history,” Lawson said. “It’s going to hurt a lot of people.”
Consumers around the world are facing rising energy and food costs, but corporations in these sectors and their leaders are benefiting from rising prices, Oxfam said.
Billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector have seen their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, in the past two years, after adjusting for inflation. About 62 food billionaires have been created since 2020.
Meanwhile, the net worth of peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors has increased by $53 billion, or 24%, since 2020, after adjusting for inflation.
Forty new pandemic billionaires have been created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and beneficiary of billions in public funding.
The tech industry has spawned many billionaires, including seven of the 10 richest people in the world such as Telsa’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. These men have increased their wealth by $436 billion to $934 billion in the past two years, after adjusting for inflation.
tax the rich
To combat the meteoric rise of inequality and help those struggling with rising prices, Oxfam is pushing governments to tax the rich and corporations.
It is calling for a temporary 90% tax on surplus corporate profits, as well as a one-time tax on billionaire wealth.
The group would also like to levy a permanent wealth tax on the super-rich. He suggests a 2% tax on assets over $5 million, rising to 5% for equity over $1 billion. This could raise $2.5 trillion worldwide.
Wealth taxes, however, have not been adopted by many governments. Efforts to levy taxes on the wealthiest Americans have failed to make headway in Congress in recent years.
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