London- The coronavirus pandemic has worsened income inequality, with the world’s richest people regaining their losses while the number of people living in poverty has doubled to more than 500 million, non-profit group Oxfam said on Monday.
According to a report by Reuters, the report titled ‘The Inequality Virus’, which is to be tabled at the Davos summit in Switzerland, stated that the richest people have already managed to recoup the losses they recorded in the early days of the pandemic because of the bounce back in stock markets.
Using figures from Forbes’ 2020 Billionaire List, Oxfam said the world’s 10 richest people, including the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett, saw their fortunes increase by $540 billion since the crisis began even though the global economy remains smaller than when the pandemic started a year ago.
“Worldwide, billionaires’ wealth increased by a staggering $3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 31, 2020… The world’s 10 richest billionaires have seen their wealth increase by $540 billion over this period,” the report said.
“At the same time, the pandemic saw hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs and face destitution and hunger… It is estimated that the total number of people living in poverty could have increased by between 200 million and 500 million,” it added.
Meanwhile, using data specially provided by the World Bank, Oxfam said that in a worst-case scenario global poverty levels would be higher in 2030 than they were before the pandemic struck, with 3.4 billion people still living on less than $5.50 a day.
By contrast, Oxfam said it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover their losses. “Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic – shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors – are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International.
The pandemic marks a “pivotal” point which has exposed economic disparities and built support for “transformative” policies, Oxfam said, calling for higher taxes on wealth and corporations alongside stronger protections for workers.
While urging governments to ensure that everyone has access to a coronavirus vaccine and financial support if they lose their job, Bucher said policies in a post-coronavirus world should focus on ending poverty and protecting the planet.
“They must invest in public services and low carbon sectors to create millions of new jobs and ensure everyone has access to a decent education, health, and social care, and they must ensure the richest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share of tax to pay for it,” she said.
“These measures must not be band-aid solutions for desperate times but a ‘new normal’ in economies that work for the benefit of all people, not just the privileged few,” she added.
Oxfam has traditionally sought to inspire debate at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of business and political elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
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