The world’s ten richest men more than doubled their wealth during the two years of the pandemic, increasing from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion at a rate of $1.3 billion a day. This is what Oxfam reveals in its annual report on inequality published today ahead of the World Economic Forum’s. The same report states that the pandemic has caused the incomes of 99% of humanity to fall and plunged more than 160 million additional people into poverty.
Read the report
If the world’s ten richest men lost 99.999% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of the world’s people. They now own six times more wealth than the poorest 3.1 billion people on the planet. In Canada, 41 billionaires have the same wealth as 40% of the population, or 15 million people. Globally, the wealth of billionaires has increased more since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic than in the last 14 years ($5,000 billion). In Canada, the increase was 57% ($87.4 billion).
At the same time, Oxfam reports that inequality contributes to the deaths of at least 21,000 people every day, or one person every four seconds. This is a conservative estimate based on global deaths from lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, hunger and climate degradation.
“More than ever, it is important to fight this obscene inequality and to share power and wealth. This includes fair taxation, in order to reinject money into the real economy and thus save lives.”
It is with this conviction that Oxfam-Quebec defends the vision of a future of equality, notably through a petition for a better taxation of wealth in our societies that has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures.
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A one-off 99% tax on new, pandemic-era billionaire wealth of just the top 10 richest men alone could pay to make enough vaccines for the entire world and fill financing gaps in climate measures, universal health and social protection, and efforts to address gender-based violence in over 80 countries. And all of this while leaving these men $8bn richer than they were at the start of the pandemic. In Canada, a graduated annual tax on the wealth of multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $79 billion a year, enough to increase the health budget by 57%.
“While the rest of the world faced a formidable crisis, billionaires had a great economic time. Governments pumped $16 trillion of our money into the world’s economies to save our lives and jobs, but much of that money ended up in the pockets of a handful of ultra-richpeople enjoying a stock market boom. The result is that inequality is growing and people are dying. This is likely to continue unless strong measures are taken as soon as possible.”
Women and racialized people are among the most directly affected:
- Worldwide, the pandemic has increased the years to gender parity from 99 years to 135 years.
- COVID-19 has hit racialized people the hardest.
For example, in Brazil, black people are 1.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. Oxfam recommends that governments urgently:
- Claw back the gains made by billionaires by taxing this enormous new wealth made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes.
- Invest the money recovered in universal health care and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.
- Tackle sexist and racist laws that discriminate against women and racialized people.
- Rich country governments must waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccine technologies as soon as possible to allow more countries to produce safe and effective vaccines to usher in the end of the pandemic.
“The solutions existand the current health crisis has shown that governments can make significant investments when they choose to do so. Reforming our economic system, which has been exacerbated by the health crisis, should be considered an absolute priority. Governments would be well advised to listen to movements such as the young climate strikers, Black Lives Matter and feminists everywhere who are calling for more justice and an equal future.”
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- Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most recent and comprehensive data sources available. The figures for the richest people in society are taken from the Forbes Billionaires list for 2021. Figures on wealth share are from the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Databook 2021. The income figures for the 99% are from the World Bank.
- According to Forbes, the 10 richest people as of November 30, 2021 have seen their wealth increase by $821 billion since March 2020. The 10 richest men are as follows: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault & family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffet.
- All amounts are in US dollars.
- The graduated annual tax on the wealth of multi-millionaires and billionaires in Canada mentioned in the release is based on the assumption of a tax of 2% over $5M, 3% over $50M and 5% over $1B.
- According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 the pandemic has caused gender parity to drop from 99 years to 135 years.
- The COVID-19 crisis has cost women around the world at least $800 billionin lost income in 2020, more than the combined GDP of 98 countries.
- In Brazil, blacks are 1.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, according to OECD.
- The proportion of people with COVID-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that the rich countries, according to medRxiv.
- Despite the recommendations of the IMF and OECD, very few wealthy nations have declared their intention to introduce or increase taxes on wealth.
- The richest 1% of the world’s population is responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollutionas the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth. For more details, download Oxfam’s report on the subject, according to Oxfam.
- The carbon footprint of the richest 1% of the world’s peopleis projected to be 30 times the level consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target in 2030. The poorest half of the world’s population will still emit far less than the level compatible with the 1.5°C target in 2030. Dowload the study, commissioned by Oxfam based on research conducted by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEPP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)