The fortunes of the 10 wealthiest men in the world have more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from Oxfam. Among them is Tesla founder Elon Musk, the world's richest man and Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the second richest.
While the world's 10 richest people have increased their collective wealth from $700bn (£511.7bn) to $1.5tn over the past two years, over 160 million more people have fallen into poverty and 99% of people across the globe have seen their incomes drop.
The 10 richest now have six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people, Oxfam said.
At least 21,000 people die each day as a result of inequality, according to Oxfam's Inequality Kills report.
The world's wealthiest have seen their fortunes rise at a rate of $15,000 per second or $1.3bn a day while the poorest struggle with lack of access to healthcare, higher levels of gender-based violence, hunger, and greater impacts from climate change.
That's equivalent to one new billionaire created every 26 hours seconds as inequality contributes to the death of one person every four seconds across the world.
The pandemic has boosted billionaires’ wealth at record rates, increasing the fortunes of the world's richest more than in the last 14 years.
“Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," said Oxfam International’s executive director Gabriela Bucher.
The richest man in the world is Tesla (TSLA) CEO and founder Elon Musk, according to Forbes figures cited by the charity. Musk is currently worth $268.1bn.
Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos is at number two on the list with a fortune of $188bn. Amazon benefitted from the pandemic, with revenues growing 38% to $386bn in 2020 as people stayed home and turned to online shopping due to lockdowns and social distancing restrictions.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC.PA) and family is the third richest followed by Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates and chairman, chief technology officer and cofounder of software giant Oracle (ORCL) Larry Ellison.
Former CEO of Microsoft and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team Steve Ballmer and investor Warren Buffet round out the top 10.
“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,” said Bucher.
At the other end of the scale, the pandemic has forced 160 million more people into living on less than $5.50 a day, according to Oxfam. The World Bank uses $5.50 a day as a measure of poverty in upper-middle-income countries.
Gender equality has also been set back by COVID-19, with 13 million fewer women in work now than in 2019 and over 20 million girls at risk of never returning to school, according to Oxfam. Women collectively lost $800bn in earnings in 2020, while the 252 richest men in the world have more wealth than all 1 billion women and girls in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean combined.
Ethnic minority groups have been hardest hit by COVID, including UK Bangladeshis and the US's black population, Oxfam found.
Inequality "goes to the heart of the climate crisis, as the richest 1% emit more than twice as much CO2 as the bottom 50% of the world, driving climate change throughout 2020 and 2021 that has contributed to wildfires, floods, tornadoes, crop failures and hunger," said Oxfam.
Oxfam are calling on governments around the world to tax the "huge new wealth" of billionaires made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes and instead put that amount towards universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.
The charity also wants leader to tackle laws that discriminate against women and ethnic minorities and create new gender-equal laws to uproot violence and discrimination as well as set up stronger laws to protect workers.
Oxfam also wants wealthy nations to waive intellectual property rules over COVID-19 vaccine technologies to allow more countries to produce safe and effective vaccines.
"Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. The result is that every kind of inequality imaginable risks rising. The predictability of it is sickening. The consequences of it kill,” said Bucher.
The 10 richest men in the world:
1. Elon Musk, Tesla founder and CEO
2. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
3. Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
4. Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder
5. Larry Ellison, Oracle co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer
6. Larry Page, Alphabet co-founder
7. Sergey Brin, Alphabet co-founder
8. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder
9. Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO
10. Warren Buffet, investor
Watch: World's richest see fortunes double, says Oxfam