Some 573 people have joined the ranks of billionaires since 2020, bringing the global total to 2,668, according to an analysis published by Oxfam on Sunday. That is, a new billionaire was Minted about every 30 hours on average during the pandemic so far.
The report that draws on data compiled by Forbes and examines the rise in inequality over the past two years. It is Coinciding with the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the richest people and world leaders.
The total net worth of billionaires has grown by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. Much of the rally was fueled by strong gains in stock markets, supported by governments injecting money into the global economy to cushion the financial hit of the coronavirus.
Much of the fortune jump occurred in the first year of the pandemic. It then flattened out and has declined somewhat since then, said Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of inequality policy.
At the same time, Covid-19, growing inequality and rising food prices could push up to 263 million people into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of gains, 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 will hurt a lot of people.”
Take advantage of high prices
Consumers around the world are struggling with rising energy and food costs, but companies in those industries and their executives are benefiting from the price hike, Oxfam said.
The wealth of billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector has grown by $382 billion, or 45%, in inflation-adjusted terms over the past two years. Around 62 food billionaires have been created since 2020.
Meanwhile, the net worth of its peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors has risen by $53 billion, or 24%, since 2020 after adjusting for inflation.
Forty new pandemic billionaires have been created in the pharmaceutical industry, which is on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19 and benefits from billions of dollars in public money.
The tech sector has produced many billionaires, including seven of the top 10 richest people in the world, such as Telsa’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Adjusted for inflation, these men increased their wealth by $436 billion to $934 billion over the past two years.
Tax the rich
To counter the meteoric rise in inequality and help those struggling as prices rise, Oxfam is urging governments to tax the rich and corporations.
She is calling for a temporary 90% tax on excess corporate profits and a one-off tax on billionaire wealth.
The company also wants to levy a permanent wealth tax on the super-rich. It proposes a 2% tax on assets over $5 million, rising to 5% for net worth over $1 billion. This could raise $2.5 trillion globally.
However, wealth taxes have not been adopted by many governments. Efforts to levy taxes on the wealth of the wealthiest Americans have failed in Congress in recent years.