The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by $540bn (£396bn) during the coronavirus pandemic and by taxing the world’s top billionaires and corporations, this could pay for vaccines globally and help reverse the poverty caused by COVID-19, says charity Oxfam.
“A rigged economy is enabling a super-rich elite to amass wealth in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, while billions of people are struggling amid the worst job crisis in over 90 years,” the report titled “The Inequality Virus” stated, published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda.
“Unless rising inequality is tackled, half a billion more people could be living in poverty on less than $5.50 a day in 2030, than at the start of the pandemic,” the report added.
Despite the pandemic, the study noted that the wealth of 1,000 of the world’s billionaires, who are mostly white men, returned to the record highs seen before the pandemic within less than nine months as stock markets rebounded, despite continued recession in the real economy.
Oxfam said a temporary tax on excess profits made by the 32 global corporations that have gained the most in the last year could have raised $104bn in 2020.
This would be enough to provide unemployment benefits for all workers and financial support for all children and elderly people in low and middle-income countries.
Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB CEO, noted that "governments cannot continue to look the other way, they must act. Fair taxation on the very richest could help with the global recovery, raise more money to fight poverty and help shape more equal societies.”
The total wealth of billionaires hit a whopping $11.95 trillion in December 2020, equivalent to G20 governments’ total COVID-19 recovery spending.
Oxfam also commissioned a survey of 295 economists from 79 countries.
Almost nine out of ten (87%) of respondents said they expected an increase in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic.
Over half thought gender inequality would likely or very likely increase and more than two thirds thought the same for racial inequality.
The report also found that the economic effects of the pandemic are edging women out of the workplace.
At the same time, women make up the majority of the global health and social care workforce, jobs that are essential but poorly paid, undervalued and also put workers at greater risk from COVID-19.
Oxfam also said COVID-19 mortality rates in England’s poorest regions are double that of the richest areas, while both infection and mortality rates are higher in poorer areas of countries including France, India and Spain.
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