Press Releases

Protection of exclusive rights and monopolies causing “artificial rationing” of Covid-19 vaccines - People's Vaccine Alliance

  • Governments needs to work together to fix vaccine supply crisis for all people

The supply of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for all is being artificially rationed because of the protection of exclusive rights and monopolies of pharmaceutical corporations, the People’s Vaccine Alliance said today.    

The alliance warned that the three biggest vaccine companies in the world - GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck and Sanofi - are largely sitting on the side-lines. Currently, they plan to produce enough Covid-19 vaccines for only 1.5 percent of the global population in 2021, while a number of other large manufacturers are not yet producing any of the successful Covid-19 vaccines. 

Meanwhile, the producers of approved vaccines, Pfizer/ BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, aim to produce enough doses to vaccinate around a third the global population - but because rich countries have bought multiple doses of these vaccines the actual figure of humanity covered is a lot less.  While Astra Zeneca has sold the majority of its doses to developing countries, Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna have sold almost all of their doses to rich nations, while failing to share their successful technology openly, despite huge public subsidies. Their vaccines are prohibitively expensive for many poor nations.

In the face of worldwide vaccine shortages and dramatic moves by the EU to restrict vaccine exports, the alliance, which includes the health NGO EMERGENCY, Frontline AIDS and Oxfam urged governments and the pharmaceutical industry to scale up production. It said they should remove the artificial barriers to tackling the global supply crisis, including by suspending intellectual property rules, sharing technology and ending monopoly control, so that everyone, everywhere has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The world is in a race to save millions of lives and get our economies going again - this is a race we have to win before new mutations render our existing vaccines obsolete. Yet the pursuit of profits and monopolies means we are losing that race. Just this week the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom said that sharing of technology and waiving of intellectual property will make vaccinating the world and controlling this disease possible.  

“We need every company on earth who can make safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to be making them right now. We urgently need to lift the veil of corporate secrecy and instead have open-source vaccines, mass produced by as many vaccine players as possible, including crucially those in developing countries. 

“By refusing to share their technology and waive their intellectual property, companies like Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, are artificially rationing the supply of successful vaccines. This is despite both benefiting from huge public subsidy. This will cost lives and prolong the economic pain which is hitting the poorest hardest.” 

To-date, only four percent of total vaccinations have been in developing countries, the vast majority of which have been in India. Of the poorest countries in the world only Guinea has been able to vaccinate 55 people [1]. Meanwhile, rich countries have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their populations three times over, leaving developing countries to compete for the leftovers. 

Many other vaccine producers in developing and rich countries could quickly increase capacity to manufacture proven safe and effective vaccines if they had the know-how and intellectual property licenses. Globally, UNICEF data suggests just 43 percent of reported Covid-19 vaccine production capacity is currently being used for the approved vaccines [2].  

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling on the governments to use their emergency powers and to leverage their massive public funding to put pressure on Pfizer/ BioNTech, Astra Zeneca, Moderna and other subsequently successful vaccine producers, to openly share their vaccine science and technology, to waive their patents and insist that all other major vaccine producers get involved in production.  

Lois Chingandu, Director of Frontline AIDS, said:“Over $100 billion of taxpayers money has funded these vaccines, while the companies behind the three successful vaccine candidates are set to make over $30 billion in revenue this year alone.

“Public investments mean these are public goods, which should be used to benefit all humanity, not private property there to benefit shareholders. Leaders must act now to override this broken system of patents, monopolies and secrecy to deliver a People’s Vaccine for all.” 

Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech use mRNA technology, which potentially allows production to be rapidly scaled-up. Yet neither are committed to openly sharing their technology, leaving many potential producers on the side-lines. 

The alliance is also calling on governments to invest in new production facilities especially in developing countries, in order to massively scale up the production of safe and effective vaccines and to build infrastructure that can respond better to future pandemics.

Heidi Chow, Senior Campaigns and Policy Manager at Global Justice Now, said: "Business as usual is not enough in a global pandemic. In times of war, manufacturers have often put aside normal competition to work together for a common cause. Surely governments should be insisting that the same spirit applies today, when so many people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake?" 

Clarken Concluded: “Here in the EU we are starting to see some of the challenges with supply issues - challenges faced by developing countries to a much greater extent. Sadly, this is what happens when we leave ourselves dependent on a system of monopoly ownership of these essential vaccines.  

“Rather than descending into fights over the limited supply we have which ultimately serves no one's interests, government needs to work together to fix the supply problem for all people across the world. 

“To do that we need them to insist that the vaccine science and know-how is open source so more manufacturers can get on board. We need to ask ourselves why some of the biggest vaccine companies in the world are not helping more, and why developing country manufacturers are being locked out.  

“Governments must move now, urgently, to fix the supply problem for everyone.” 

Ends 

Contact 

For interviews with Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland contact:

Caroline Reid | 087 912 3165 | caroline.reid@oxfam.org 

For interviews with Lois Chingandu or Heidi Chow contact: 

Sarah Dransfield |+ 44 (0)7884 114825 | media@peoplesvaccine.org 

Notes to editors 

  • The Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of global and national organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a ‘People’s Vaccine’. The call for a People’s Vaccine is backed by past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists. For more information visit: https://peoplesvaccine.org
  • The three biggest global vaccine producing pharmaceutical corporations by market value are GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck and Sanofi and between them they have only pledged to produce 225 million vaccines this year. Earlier this week GSK announced that it will be working with CureVac to develop a vaccine to tackle emerging variants of Covid-19 next year and will help manufacture up to 100 million doses of CureVac’s vaccine which is still in clinical trials.    
  • Last week Sanofi announced a deal to help produce 125 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but this is a drop in the ocean in comparison to the scale of need and will likely only benefit EU countries. Before setbacks in the clinical trials of their own potential joint vaccine, Sanofi and GSK had supply deals to produce almost five times as many doses than they are offering to produce of Pfizer and CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccines respectively.  
  • Merck, the second biggest vaccine company in the world had been building up capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses of one or both of its Covid-19 vaccine candidates, but the company recently announced it would be discontinuing development of these vaccines due to poor trial results. 
  • GSK, Sanofi and Merck have received over $2 billion from the US government as part of its Operation Warp Speed to support production of vaccines.  
  • Meanwhile the Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic this week offered up the capacity to produce 240 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in its factory, but none of the successful vaccine companies have taken up the offer so far.  
  • It is also likely that potential capacity in developing countries is being overlooked. The Serum Institute of India is already producing hundreds of millions of vaccines for Covid-19 on behalf of AstraZeneca and Novovax as well as developing their own, but there are at least 20 more vaccine manufacturers in India.
  • Global deaths from Covid-19 according to : https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-deaths-region?time=2020-01-23..latest 
  • Due to corporate secrecy, it is unclear how much spare capacity exists, but the world’s Covid vaccine production capacity could be significantly expanded if all companies that were able to join the manufacturing effort, including critically developing country producers. Evidence shows this need not take time. Sanofi’s announcement that it will be making Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines by July 2021 demonstrates that transferring the vaccine technology and scaling up production can happen in a matter of months. It took the German Pharma firm BioNTech just four and a half months to repurpose a new plant to scale up production of Covid-19 vaccines. The example also shows that previous vaccine experience is not a necessity in making mRNA vaccines, meaning that the net can be cast much wider in the search for additional expert capacity if the intellectual property and technology is shared. 
  • The figure of 1.5 percent is based on pledges from GSK & Sanofi to produce 100m and 125m doses respectively, which adds up to 225 million doses. Both vaccines require two doses, so the reach would be 112 million people, or 1.5 percent of the global population. 

  

[1] As of 4th February, Bloomberg’s global vaccine tracker reported a total of 108 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered across 67 countries. Only 4.4 percent of vaccinations have been in developing countries, with 3.8 million of these vaccines being given in India. Of the poorest ‘low income’ countries, only 55 vaccines have been given in one country– Guinea. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/ 

[2] Numbers taken from UNICEF vaccine dashboard https://www.unicef.org/supply/covid-19-vaccine-market-dashboard on 4th February
We compare projected production capacity for all Covid-19 vaccine candidates with the capacity for those vaccines that are already approved.  

[3] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/211413/vaccine-collaboration-could-overcome-cold-chain/
According to several articles, Danish firm Bavarian Nordic has offered the use of a newly-operational factory, which It says could produce 240 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine per year:https://www.thelocal.dk/20210202/danish-company-offers-to-help-with-covid-19-vaccine-production 

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Brendan Courtney teams up with Lorraine Keane's Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland for donation drive

  • Style duo Keane and Courtney call for high-end donations in support of Fashion Relief 
  • Spring clean with purpose for Lorraine Keane’s Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland 

What? 

This Friday, 5th February, style guru Brendan Courtney is teaming up with Broadcaster Lorraine Keane in support of a pre-loved designer and high-end clothing drive in aid of Fashion Relief, Keane’s sustainable fashion fundraiser with Oxfam Ireland. 

When? 

Friday 5th February, kicking off at 6pm

Where? 

Tune into Broadcaster Lorraine Keane’s Instagram account: @lorrainekeaneofficial

This Friday, style duo Lorraine Keane and Brendan Courtney will be taking to Instagram to call upon supporters to donate new or pre-loved items to Fashion Relief - Keane’s sustainable fashion fundraiser with Oxfam Ireland - with a specific ask for designer and high-quality clothing and bags. 

Broadcaster Lorraine Keane said: “The evenings are getting longer, and our homes are probably starting to feel a little more cluttered as, let's face it, we are all spending a lot of time in them these days – so why not start your spring clean early and send your pre-loved gems over to us at Fashion Relief. 

“People can donate up to 12 items at a time. When they let us know that they would like to donate, we will send a pre-paid and addressed donation bag out to them. Once their donations are packaged up all they need to do is bring them to their local post office and they will be winging their way to us at Fashion Relief.”

Fashion Relief started in 2018 when Lorraine Keane teamed up with Oxfam Ireland to organise a series of live Fashion Relief events. Since then, Fashion Relief has travelled nationwide to Dublin, Galway and Cork and raised almost €270,000 for Oxfam’s work with some of the most vulnerable communities across the world.

Fashion Relief is also part of Oxfam’s solution to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items rather than binning them. In addition, Fashion Relief works with retailers, supporting them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

Brendan Courtney said: “What better way to start a journey to a more sustainable lifestyle, than with the clothes we wear. By donating items to Fashion Relief, you are reducing the amount of clothes and textiles that end up in landfill and giving pre-loved clothes a second lease of life, while also supporting people experiencing poverty and disaster.”

Keane concluded: “When Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the 2020 events, Fashion Relief pivoted to an online shopping platform with the help of Irish tech firm Axonista. Now we are pivoting to Instagram and the fashionists of Ireland to ensure we can continue to offer people unique fashion finds at discounted prices.

“This is our own little Fashion Relief circular economy – as long as people continue to donate fabulous items, we will continue to have fabulous bargains up for grabs.”

All Fashion Relief profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes.

If you have items you would like to donate to Fashion Relief’s donation drive contact Aisling at aisling.wallace@oxfam.org to arrange for delivery of your donation bag.

Ends

For media queries contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org |087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor

About Fashion Relief: Fashion Relief is a fundraiser extraordinaire that offers people the unique opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobe of their style icon or beloved brand, boutique or designer. It started in May 2018 and has since rolled out annual events in Dublin, Cork and Galway. All profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes. Since its inception, Fashion Relief has shone a light on the suffering of millions of children, women and men across the world who face hunger and starvation due to a catastrophic combination of conflict, disasters and extreme weather.  Funds raised will be used to support Oxfam’s work worldwide – including families tackling the climate crisis in East Africa, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and the millions of people who are desperately trying to survive in Yemen and Syria.

About Oxfam Ireland: Oxfam is a global movement of people who won’t live with the injustice of poverty. Together they save lives and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. They help people build better lives for themselves. They speak out on the big issues that keep people poor, like inequality and discrimination against women. And they won’t stop until every person on the planet can live without poverty. Oxfam Ireland is one of 20 Oxfams working in over 90 countries worldwide.

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NGOs win historic victory against French State for failing to tackle climate change

Wednesday 3rd February 2021

  • Court battle backed by 2.34 million people – largest petition in French history 
  • Landmark case will pile pressure on other governments to act faster 

A landmark ruling today has found the French State at fault for failing to take enough action to tackle the climate crisis. The decision by the French court will serve as a warning to other governments to do more to reduce carbon emissions in line with their public commitments, said Oxfam France, a plaintiff in the case.

In December 2018, Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à Tous, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and Greenpeace France launched a legal action against the French State for failing to reduce the country’s emissions fast enough to meet its commitments. More than 2.3 million people signed a petition supporting the action – the largest in French history. 

It is the first time the French State has been taken to court over its responsibility on climate change. Today’s decision leaves the government open to compensation claims from French citizens who have suffered climate-related damage, and could force it to take further steps to reduce its emissions.

Cécile Duflot, Executive Director of Oxfam France, said: “Today’s decision is a historic victory for climate justice. For the first time, a French court has ruled that the State can be held responsible for its climate commitments. This sets an important legal precedent and can be used by people affected by the climate crisis to defend their rights. This is a source of hope for the millions of French people who demanded legal action, and for all of those who continue to fight for climate justice around the world. It is also a timely reminder to all governments that actions speak louder than words.” 

The ruling comes as many countries are preparing more ambitious targets to reduce emissions, as required by the Paris Agreement. Governments are due to meet in Scotland later this year for the COP26 climate summit. Scientists and NGOs say the targets already announced – known as Nationally Determined Contributions – fall short of the cuts needed to avoid catastrophic global warming. 

The French government’s proposed climate law is, by its own admission, not enough to achieve its target of cutting emissions 40 percent by 2030. Even this target is not enough to put the country on track to tackle the climate crisis, Oxfam France said. 

This decision also serves as a timely reminder to all European governments and the European Commission to take their international commitments seriously and to lead in the fight against the climate crisis. The current EU climate target of a 55 percent cut to emissions is ambitious, but still falls short of what is needed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C. 

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Head of Policy and Advocacy with Oxfam Ireland said: "Our own Supreme Court has already put the Irish Government on notice for failing to take adequate action on climate change, in a similar case. 

“Climate Case Ireland is the first case of its kind in Ireland and only the second case in the world in which the highest national court of law has required a Government to revise its national climate policy in light of its legal obligations. 

“It is essential that the new Climate Change Bill currently going through the Oireachtas is robust enough to ensure Ireland delivers faster and fair climate action."

The French State has two months to appeal the court’s decision. While the four NGOs have asked the court to order the State to take additional measures to fulfill its climate commitments, the court decided to reserve its decision on this point for later in the Spring, to allow for further discussions between the French State and the NGOs. 

Duflot concluded: “Following today’s breakthrough, we now hope the courts will compel the Government to take further steps to reduce emissions and ensure that France is living up to its commitments.”

Oxfam launched the legal action because the climate crisis is fuelling poverty, hunger and inequality around the world. Often it is the poorest countries that have contributed least to the crisis that pay the highest price. In September 2020, Oxfam revealed that the richest one percent of people produce more than double the emissions of the poorest half of the world population combined. 

Ends

To arrange an interview with an Oxfam spokesperson, please contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor:

  • In June 2020 Climate Case Ireland/ Friends of the Irish Environment took the Irish Government to the Supreme Court for failing to take adequate action on climate change – and won. For more information on Climate Case Ireland see https://www.climatecaseireland.ie/
  • In December 2020, EU leaders agreed on a new EU emissions reduction target of ‘at least 55 percent’ below 1990 levels by 2030. Oxfam estimates that cuts of more than 65 percent are needed for Europe to contribute its fair share of global emissions cuts needed to limit global heating to 1.5C.
  • This case in France follows a similar ruling in the Netherlands in 2019, in which the Supreme Court ordered the government to ramp up its emissions reduction target. There is also a similar case coming up in a Belgian court to enforce more ambitious climate policies. The number of climate litigation cases has doubled since 2017, according to a recent report by the UN Environment Program. As of July 2020, at least 1,550 climate change cases had been filed in 38 countries. 
  • Oxfam’s report in September 2020, Confronting Carbon Inequality, found that the richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest 3.1 billion people during a critical 25-year period of emissions growth. 
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Mega-rich recoup Covid-losses in record-time yet billions will live in poverty for at least a decade

  • As Ireland’s billionaires’ fortunes increase by 3.28bn during pandemic - essential workers, often on minimum or low-paid wages, kept the country going

  • World’s ten richest men increase wealth by half a trillion dollars during pandemic  

The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months, while it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, a new report from Oxfam revealed today. 

Mirroring this global inequality trend, Ireland’s own nine billionaires saw their fortunes increase by €3.28 billion since March – a tenth of which would pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for every person in the Republic of Ireland. Meanwhile, essential workers - such as our carers and supermarket and factory workers – cared for our vulnerable and kept our food supplies running throughout the pandemic -  quite often on minimum or low-paid wages. 

Oxfam’s The Inequality Virus report, published to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Agenda’, highlights how Covid-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.  

A new global survey commissioned by Oxfam of 295 economists from 79 countries, including Ireland, reveals that 87 percent of respondents, including Jeffrey Sachs, Jayati Ghosh and Gabriel Zucman, expect an ‘increase’ or a ‘major increase’ in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic. This thinking was shared by 85 percent of Irish economists who participated, with most estimating it would be the worst increase in inequality in Ireland since the financial crash of 2008. 

Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly White male billionaires, to bounce back.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began, with the deep divide between the rich and poor proving as deadly as the virus itself. Around the world the impact of Covid-19 is magnifying and exacerbating existing inequalities – as well as racial and gender divides. One of the most extreme and unjust indicators of inequality we are seeing around the world right now is between those who have access to life saving vaccine and those who don’t’. 

“Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in safety, while those on the frontline— our shop assistants, healthcare workers, and factory workers — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table, and often do not have benefits such as paid sick leave. 

“The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began —more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work. 

 “In Ireland, the fallout of the pandemic on employment has disproportionately hit young adults as well as people in low-paid occupations, all of whom are more likely to be paying rent. Without significant government intervention, we are looking at a return to long-term unemployment, increasing risks of homelessness and economic insecurity for younger generations in Ireland. 

“In addition, women and marginalised racial and ethnic groups are yet again bearing the brunt. They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare. 

“Long before Covid-19 disrupted our lives, in Ireland and across the world, women sustained our societies through their paid and unpaid care work. They continue to do so as we manage this public health crisis and as the social and economic consequences unfold. However, there is a lack of attention to gender equality in much of the economic decision making that has taken place since the onset of the pandemic.”  

Oxfam said the road to recovery will be much longer for people who were already struggling pre-Covid. When the virus took hold, over half of workers in poor countries were living in poverty, and three-quarters of workers globally had no access to social protections like sick pay or unemployment benefits. 

Clarken concluded: “Extreme inequality is not inevitable, but a policy choice. Governments around the world must seize this opportunity to build more equal, more inclusive economies that end poverty and protect the planet. 

“The fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts. Governments must ensure everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and financial support if they lose their job. 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.  

“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.”

ENDS

Oxfam Ireland spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews, images or more information, contact: 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

Notes to editors

Download ‘The Inequality Virus’ and a methodology document outlining how Oxfam calculated the statistics in the report here

Oxfam Ireland are calling for the Irish Government to: 

  • Support the call for a global ‘People’s Vaccine’ to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are made a global public good—free of charge to the public, fairly distributed and based on need. 
  • Support calls for a tax on the excess profits earned during the pandemic by corporations the world over which could generate $104bn - enough to provide unemployment protection for all workers, and financial support for all children and elderly people in the poorest countries. 
  • Significantly increase investments in public services and social infrastructure, especially the care economy, while prioritising gender budgeting and the equality budgeting process. 
  • Bail out businesses responsibly. Priority must be given to supporting small businesses that have the least ability to cope with the crisis. Any public support for large corporations should be conditional on measures that uphold the interests of workers, farmers and taxpayers and build a sustainable future.   
  • Fulfil their commitment to develop a new set of indicators to monitor and progress societal well-being and reduce inequality, while ensuring that economic development remains within planetary boundaries. 
  1. Sunday Business Post analysis from November 2020 estimated the cost of purchasing Covid-19 vaccines as up to €300 million for an initial supply. Daniel Murray SBP Nov 8 2020.
  2. Eight top Irish economists responded to Oxfam’s survey from UCD, TCD and various think tanks and Government agencies. 85 percent of Irish economists who answered Oxfam’s survey thought inequality would increase in Ireland due to Covid-19, with most thinking it would be the worst increase in inequality since the financial crash of 2008. 
  3. For sources related to the tax on excess profits- U. Gneiting, N. Lusiani and I. Tamir. (2020). Power, Profits and the Pandemic: From corporate extraction for the few to an economy that works for all. Oxfam International.
  4. The financing gap to offer a social protection floor package in low-income countries is $48bn in 2020. ILO. (2020c). Financing gaps in social protection.
  5. More information on Oxfam’s call for a People’s Vaccine.
  6. During the week of 25 January, the World Economic Forum (WEF) will digitally convene the ‘Davos Dialogues’, where key global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021. 
  7. Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available. Figures on the very richest in society come from Forbes’ 2020 Billionaires List. Because data on wealth was very volatile in 2020, the Credit Suisse Research Institute has delayed the release of its annual report on the wealth of humanity until spring 2021. This means that we have not been able to compare the wealth of billionaires to that of the bottom half of humanity as in previous years. 
  8. According to Forbes the 10 richest people, as of December 31st 2020, have seen their fortunes grow by $540 billion dollars since 18March 2020. 
  9. The oldest historical records of inequality trends are based on tax records that go back to the beginning of the 20th century.
  10. The World Bank has simulated what the impact of an increase in inequality in almost every country at once would mean for global poverty. The Bank finds that if inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) increases by 2 percentage points annually and global per capita GDP growth contracts by 8 percent, 501 million more people will still be living on less than $5.50 a day in 2030 compared with a scenario where there is no increase in inequality. As a result, 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. This is the Bank’s worst-case scenario, however projections for economic contraction across most of the developing world are in line with this scenario. 
  11. In the World Economic Outlook (October 2020), the International Monetary Fund’s worst-case scenario does not see GDP returning to pre-crisis levels until the end of 2022. The OECD has warned this will lead to long-term increases in inequality unless action is taken.
  12. Oxfam calculated that 112 million fewer women would be at risk of losing their jobs or income if men and women were equally represented in low-paid, precarious professions that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis based on an ILO policy brief published in July 2020.
  13. All amounts are expressed in US dollars.
  14. Oxfam is part of the Fight Inequality Alliance, a growing global coalition of civil society organizations and activists that are holding the Global Protest to Fight Inequality from 23-30 January in around 30 countries, including Kenya, Mexico, Norway and the Philippines, to promote solutions to inequality and demand that economies work for everyone.
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Over a third of world’s population have no ‘social protection’ to cope with Covid-19 economic crisis

  • Covid-19 – “united the world in fear but has divided it in response”  

New Oxfam research shows that over a third of the world’s population (2.7 billion people) have had no public money to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their new report, Shelter from the Storm, done in partnership with Development Pathways, reviewed government schemes - such as disability, unemployment, child, and elderly benefits - used to help people in 126 low and middle-income countries, finding none of them were adequate to meet people’s needs. 

Overall, the world has spent an additional $11.7 trillion this year to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Of this, $9.8 trillion (83 percent) was spent by 36 rich countries against just $42 billion (0.4 percent) by 59 low-income countries. 

Of additional funds – like Ireland’s PUP scheme - used specifically for social protection measures, of the countries analysed, richer nations spent a rate of $695 per person. In contrast, low-income and emerging countries have spent at a per capita rate of between $28 to as low as $4.  

To make matters worse, rich countries have only increased their aid to developing countries for social protection by $5.8 billion – the equivalent of less than five cents for every $100 raised to tackle Covid-19.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The coronavirus united the world in fear but has divided it in response. The pandemic sparked a laudable global effort that reached nearly two billion more people with social protection support over 2020 but, as of today, more people have been left behind entirely.”

The need for better social protection programs to help people is huge. Half a billion people are now under-employed or out of work, with twice as many women affected as men. Workers in low-income countries have suffered the most, losing 23 percent of their working hours. People are falling into debt, skipping meals, keeping children from school, and selling their assets. Remittance flows from migrant workers to families back home have collapsed, while global poverty and hunger are rocketing.

Clarken said that social protection is both a lifeline and a human right, and one of the most powerful and affordable investments to reduce inequality, vulnerability, poverty and need. 

Clarken continued: “The case for overseas aid, progressive taxation and international solidarity has never been stronger, precisely because of this desperate time in which we are living through.

“All this because inequality is a hard-wired design feature rather than design fault of our global economic system. Millions of desperate people see precious little relief ahead without urgent action.

“Oxfam has reached 11.3 million people through its Covid-19 response programming around the world, however, as much as civil society is mobilising together strongly, with local partners and community leadership to the fore, the scale of people’s need is overwhelming and growing”. 

“Our report illustrates stories like Sovann Vary’s, a single mother who borrowed $5,000 to buy a tuk-tuk when her job as a domestic cleaner ended. She is struggling to repay and is ineligible for the social insurance scheme set up by her Cambodian government. And Brenda Carolina who was similarly rejected from Guatemalan support as an informal garment worker – her family now depends upon sporadic food aid. We’re hearing hundreds of stories like Vary’s and Brenda’s, every day.

“There is still time for developing country governments to step up their support for people by increasing taxes on the richest to pay for decent universal social protection programs. As is there still time for rich nations to increase their aid and currency reserves, and cancel debts, to help poorer countries in their response.”

Oxfam is calling for a Global Fund for Social Protection to avert a huge increase in global inequality and poverty, as a keystone toward a more equal and resilient post-Covid economy. Governments should commit an additional two percent of their GDP into social protection programs and ensure minimum income security for children, the elderly, mothers, and people living with disability.

Clarken concluded: “An unprecedented investment is now required. One that bravely meets the crisis head on.”  

END

CONTACT

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

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The report finds:

  • 41 percent of the 126 countries studied had social protection schemes consisting of one-off payments, now long exhausted; only 13 percent had programs that lasted longer than six months. Eight out of 10 countries have not reached even half their citizens. 
  • Some countries like South Africa, the Philippines, Namibia and Bolivia were better prepared with near-universal social benefits in place prior to the pandemic. Oxfam says that most other countries could achieve this with better policies and more support. 
  • By 2030, Kenya and Indonesia, for example, could cut their poverty rate by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively by investing 1.7 percent of their GDP now into universal social protection schemes. 
  • Many developing countries have been able to mobilise non-financial help, like food aid, but this is often insufficient to make up the overall gap in formal social protection schemes.

Prior the coronavirus pandemic, up to 4 billion people lacked social protection, according to ILO (World Social Protection Report 2017-19).


The World Bank estimates that 1.3 billion have been reached since with social assistance cash transfer coverage expansion. Source WB: U. Gentilini et al. (2020). Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19. About 2.7 billion people have consequently been left behind. 

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